Monday, January 30, 2012

Words Galore: I Can Statements!

I posted about my word work stations a while ago HERE!  I love how low-maintenance they are... and I  love how engaged my kiddos are! If you're interested in "I Can" statements to go along with each activity, you can check out Words Galore on TpT!  I know this is short & sweet, and I am SO sorry! I promise I'll be back later in the week after I wrap up parent-teacher conferences!  Happy Monday, friends!

Friday, January 27, 2012

I'm Blogging, and I Know It!

Let's see, aside from my concussion, things have been relatively "normal" at school.  We hit a slight rough patch on Tuesday since my partner was also out of school that day, and then I was sent home around noon, but we finished out strong!  It just always takes a little creativity and hard work to fit everything in!  Isn't it crazy how that works?! { I seriously would rather drag myself in sick than plan for a sub, but thankfully my Sub Tub keeps me covered in a pinch...or a slam in the face. Hahaha!}  Thanks for all the bloggy support, by the way!  :)

This is sort of disjointed, but I feel like I have a valid excuse this week .  :)  We worked on generalizations a bit with General Ization, and talked about what he would have seen at indoor recess during his surveillance of our classroom. They went on a little gallery walk again, but this time it was all about making general comments about certain topics.  They had a lot of fun, and they really seemed to grasp the concept. :)  Yay!  My kiddos are on their way to becoming Generalization Gurus...  but I am sooooo sorry for the cell phone pictures.  I have a Canon that tends to stay at home more than it should! 

I have been meaning to mention that I tweaked my Word Work process slightly.  Instead of feeling pressured into making two sets of flashcards every week, I have been making extra copies of our spelling and vocabulary lists.  I just put a stack in the storage drawers, and the kids go to town.  It's so easy to manage and switch out!  I am all about making it manageable!  I'm in the process of adding a few more goodies, but for now, the center looks essentially like it did at the start of the year but without all of the giant flashcards.  :)

We also continued to work on Nonfiction Text Features, so we pulled up a story on the Smartboard through Pearson SuccessNet.  This is a great resource for Reading Street teachers!  I pull up the Day 4 lesson each week for a whole group reading and discussion of text features whenever the focus is on nonfiction.  It's quick, it's eco-friendly, and the kids enjoy it!  To ensure that the kiddos keep referring back to our previous lessons, I started putting together nonfiction text features on display on one of my more functional bulletin board spaces.

In other news, I totally fall in love with my students more and more every day.  The Finding Bigfoot Crew is still going strong, so that pretty much cracks me up!  These are recruitment posters for their indoor recess research clan... it's seriously HUGE.

Lately though, there's another craze hitting Rm. 13.  It involves a little red guy named Elmo.  Tuesday. after picking my kids up from Art {before going home}, three of my boys started singing to me.   I am pretty sure they didn't stop singing it until about 2:45 this afternoon for an assembly.  That's only a slight exaggeration.  Without further adieu, "I'm Elmo and I Know It"!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Little Goose Egg of Wisdom...

Today,  I was thinking so much about all of the things I needed to do before my kiddos arrived that I literally slammed my car door into my face.  Luckily, I only have a mild concussion and a pretty little goose egg!  What did I glean from this experience?  Take it one day at a time, one thing at a time. This is great advice, but it's so hard to do!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Generalization Gurus {Supplemental File}

I don't know whether to apologize for posting twice today, or whether I should celebrate the fact that I have actually been blogging in the midst of my crazy-hectic close of the 2nd 9-weeks... that happened to coincide with the beginning of two grad classes.  I think I'll just say "sorry" and "YAY!" to cover all of the bases.  :)  Moving on!

I don't know about you, but personally, I think generalizations can be pretty TOUGH to teach!  It's such a complex concept, and there's so much to it!  Like everything else, I wanted to get my kiddos out of their seats and provide opportunities for collaboration and discussion.  I am not saying that I have all of the answers about how to teach this particular skill, but I do have a little supplemental file that may help spice things up a little bit.  If you want to check it out to see if it's something you can use, you can check out a larger version of the preview file HERE.  {Please forgive the  lack of preview pictures on the product page.  For some reason, they won't load tonight.  I'll go in again tomorrow to try to get them up.  In the meantime, check out the preview file!  It has more thumbnails anyway!}  Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Arctic Snow Business UPDATE etc.

Okay, first of all, I made updates to my Arctic Snow Business: An Avalanche of Nonfiction Fun pack!  I had a few special requests, so I have added an extra 12 pages to the file as a result.  :)  The packet now covers three more nonfiction features: the title, headings, and subheadings.  I have also added cover sheets for the student work pages to enable you to bind them into books if you choose to!  If you have already purchased the file, you just need to go into your downloads to access the updated file at no additional cost!  I hope you like the additions!

 We are just getting started with "A Symphony of Whales" in our Reading Street series, so we did a little previewing action today.  I like to use tree maps with my third graders as another alternative to the KWL or my schema charts once in a while to mix it up while activating prior knowledge.  Novelty is always a good thing.  I know you see them a lot on kindergarten and first grade blogs, but this is how I use them with older students, and I think it works just swell! :)  Please excuse my chicken scratch.  I frequently pump out quick anchor charts, and they rarely look like anything to write home about.

To preview our vocabulary, this time the kiddos went on a gallery walk.  I wrote the words on blue papers and hung them around the room.  The kids had ten minutes to walk around and contribute to each poster.  They either wrote the meaning in their own words, sketched it out, or listed examples of the word.  I had the kiddos read what other students wrote to prompt deeper thinking and more connections, and it was a hit! They were so into it, that there was an audible groan when time was up.  We took some time to go over their posters afterward, and we clarified any misconceptions about terms by adding the definitions they need to study for the RS test to our posters.  We acted out a few definitions like surrounded and melody, and of course, that always helps cement the meaning too!

In other news, it looks like the Arctic outside of my window.  We're getting hit with lots of snow tonight, so I am totally staying in.  All night.  :)  Yay!!!!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Indoor Recess Research

This morning, a student came up to me and asked if she would be able to conduct research during indoor recess.  Of course, I teach reading, and what reading teacher would say no to that?!  Right?!  So, I asked her what her research plans were.  She said, "I've been watching this show about Bigfoot-- it's called "Finding Bigfoot", and I really believe that he truly does exist.  So, I want to conduct some research to prove it.  I even called a team of investigators, and they are coming to Ohio!  My grandma said she might even take me to see it!  I might be part of their team!!!" Okay friends, at this point,  it was sooooo difficult not to erupt into uncontrollable laughter, but I managed.  BIGFOOT!  I LOVE IT!

So, long story short, I said that indoor recess would be a wonderful time to work on her project.  Of course, then she asked if she could see if other students would be interested in joining her "Finding Bigfoot Crew".  My response? "Sure sweetheart, that would be okay as long as this stays in recess!  Other kids are playing board games and drawing, so I think that doing official bigfoot research would be totally okay too!"  Okay, seriously, this is a big deal now.  I live in Ohio.  It is snowing and freezing and storming.  So, needless to say, half of my class wants to be in this bigfoot crew.  Surprisingly, mostly my girls!  I am a happy teacher simply because they are so into it, and they are reading and writing for a real purpose!  The ringleader is a student who struggles a little bit with our literacy component, so I am SO beyond thrilled that she is the one facilitating this research crew.  As I have been informed, this is a crew, and it is totally different than a club, because they are actually searching for clues and using Science.  Now you know.  :)

Last year, some of you may remember reading about the Invasion of the American Girl Dolls, and I swear every year, there's some kind of quirky little thing that I am chomping at the bits to document and remember forever.  This year, this is it!  This is one of those moments that you just hold on to on days when everything is a little, well, rough.  Because we all need to remember to look at our world through the eyes of a child every now and then, and because we need to remember that curiosity is a wonderful attribute, here it is for your viewing pleasure.  Ladies and gents, this is the official "Finding Bigfoot Crouw Crew Binder".   Precious!

Just in case you're wondering about this, you're looking at deer bones.  The "evidence" found near my student's home.  :) Ha.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Conglomerate: made up of various parts or of various kinds.  See also: this post.

Okay, in all seriousness, I decided to clear off my phone pictures before I head to my 8:00 class tonight.    I am fairly certain that I am going to be exhausted tomorrow {again} because unlike my undergrad experience, I cannot take a nap tomorrow to even everything back out.  My other class is fortunately or unfortunately entirely online.  I can't decide how I feel about it yet, so I am sort of straddling the fence about whether I like or loathe the online format for my capstone.  All I know is... I require a lot of sleep.  So, this semester should be interesting!  :)  

In other news, to mix up my Reading Street vocabulary practice, I had the kiddos practice glossary skills.  They worked in pairs (or groups of three as needed) to look up the definition of one word and illustrate it.  Then, they had to teach the class about their words.  I believe in making vocabulary lessons quick and meaningful, so rather than having them copy down 10 words each in a notebook like drones, I try to involve them in meaningful partner work for one word, have them make a pictorial representation for a little brain-friendly action, and then they need to teach it and synthesize.  It goes quickly, they practice the glossary, and they learn their words from each other.  I love it. They love it.  Everyone wins.  :)

Beyond that, we did a little work with Martin's Big Words, and made a little Martin craftivity that I tweaked from Cara Carroll's MLK crafts that she did last year with her first grade muffins.  I love kid art, and I don't have the time or extra help to pre-slice & dice the pieces, so I opted to let the kids make the faces on their own.  I love how unique they all are, and frankly how exaggerated the features are.  So cute! We focused on writing adjectives around Martin that show what kind of a person he was.  Here they are!

My kiddos also wrapped up their study of communities with their own community creations!

We are focusing a lot on being able to discern if questions can be answered by looking at the book {book questions} or have to come from their brains {brain questions}.  This may seem over-simplified to some of you, but it's been nice to have my kids start to internalize where they get their answers and to strategize as they encounter tricky questions on weekly tests, and I can only hope they will use the same strategies on the OAA this spring. As we get into questioning deeper {answering and asking them}, we are going to be using materials from my WONDERland packet... including this Wonder Bag. {I used a bag from Target, and I attached the laminated sign with velcro to make it easy to replace if I need to down the road.  Nothing super fancy.}

Lastly, I wanted to share a way that I organize fluency goodies for progress monitoring!  I mounted the DIBELS progress monitoring passages on colored construction paper and laminated them for durability.  I keep them in sequential order in a plastic storage bag with the DIBELS chart to quickly reference how many words my students should be reading per minute at each "benchmark".  This is also nothing fancy.  I just like being able to pull the sheets out, put them in front of the kids easily, and listen to them read without having to shuffle around too much with flimsy papers that get stuck together or messing with a binder.  I keep them in a file cabinet, and this works well for you.  It may drive some of you crazy, but for me, this is a keeper.  :) 

Okay friends, have a great night!  I'm off to college to get more knowledge!  :) Ha!  If you have any questions about any of this, let me know!  Actually, I'd be happy to answer any of your questions, so ask away!  Happy Hump Day!  :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Arctic Snow Business: An Avalanche of Nonfiction Fun!

Learning how to navigate nonfiction is so important as students ascend into higher grade levels!  I try my hardest to help my thirdsters master this complex task in order to help them be more successful in the content areas NOW and to help them cope with more difficult material in years to come.  In order to comprehend what they read, research suggests that they must be able to understand how to interpret and utilize the text features that are unique to nonfiction! This 52 page packet includes several ideas and resources to spice up your instruction!  It features Arctic animals for each NF feature poster and has accompanying student sheets to fill in the definition of each feature as they learn each new text feature... plus so much more!  If you're interested, you can check it out HERE!

Also, if you're interested, grab a free copy of something I put together with our Building Leader Team to address nonfiction in our building at the bottom of this post!  The first page is directions for our kiddos to read strategically, and the second page outlines some steps we are taking with Reading Street to ensure that we hit that component on a regular basis.  I don't know if anyone can use it, but feel free to grab it if you think you can!

Nonfiction Case File Directions

Friday, January 13, 2012

Keepin' It Real

Okay, it's confession time.  My room does not always look like this.  In fact, most of the pictures I take at the beginning of every year eventually make me feel incredibly guilty, because despite obsessive-compulsive planning and plotting, my little kid-diddles just aren't as concerned about the aesthetics as I am.  As it should be.

These pictures are from last year.  Keep in mind, my classroom was in a two-year-old school, so it was pretty color coordinated.  I assure you, it was not always perfect, but I had worked out some organizational oopsies before I ever took these pictures.  This is the only classroom I have been in for more than one year.  This year marks my fifth classroom in six years! While switching rooms always presents a lot of challenges, I will say that the constant moving definitely helps me with the purging process.  I kinda/sorta purged an entire mobile dumpster full of junk from this classroom before I moved to my new classroom.  I don't know whether I should be proud of that or completely ashamed.  Bahaha!

Anyway, this was my old "nest" last year.  You can find more HERE.  They are totally beginning of the year pictures, which is why my walls are fairly empty and my CAFE menu was bare....  Truthfully, I prefer to see work all over the walls and more anchor charts, so I kind of prefer the last picture in this first series to the sterile blank slate pics.

 Okay, and just so you know I'm not exaggerating about the portable dumpster, there she is in all of her glory.  The fact that you can see anything peeking over the top of this monster is sad.  I filled that bad boy UP, and that was after I left a ton of goodies downstairs in the workroom for my teacher friends. 

Anyway, this year, I started teaching in a new school district, as you probably know if you've been following my blog for a while.  This is how it looked at the beginning of the year:

Okay, now I'm going to let you see what my room looks like right now.  It looks basically the same as it did, just a little less polished.  Most of my room still looks presentable, but these are the areas that I could use a little TLC, or Tender Loving Cleaning.

These pencil boxes used to do the trick in my old cabinet... but as you can see... this is so not working.  At least it's out of sight.  Any ideas about how to make this cabinet a little less rusty and a little more fabulous?!

The state of my desk drawer.  Kind of random and sad. 

My multi-colored binders need some work too.  They are tilted and kind of ugly.   They also need labeled on the spines.

Clearly, I need to re-organize this area.  It's full of all of my Reading Street curricular pieces, and it's really not even that functional.  Last year, I used them for papers that had already been copied.  This year, it's kind of my catch-all instead.

Ahhhhhh!  I am so embarrassed to post this.  Obviously we need to have another mini-lesson about how to return books.

I also need to find the time to attend to the stack of books in the book hospital. 

Oh wow.  This makes me cringe too.  I am in a basement so nothing stays on the wall.  I honestly have not had time to stick the alphabet line back up onto the wall, because I have been so busy wrapping up the second nine-weeks.  This area used to be a bulletin board area.  Remember?  Now, I stick anchor charts here instead.  Let's just say that my $8.00 fadeless paper had an unfortunate mishap earlier in the year involving a pencil, and although I tried to cover it and work with the hole, it eventually tore and fell down in the middle of class.  Due to time constraints, I have not addressed this eye sore yet.  It is my least favorite part of my room.  Please don't judge me!  Ha!  Any ideas for keeping paper on chalkboards in a damp basement?!

And there you have it, friends.  My MESS!  I am totally a week behind on this, but the main thing is, I'm going to make an attempt to participate in the Clutter-Free Classroom Project!  If you want to participate, pop over to Jodi's fabulously creative and practical blog for details!  Click below to play along!