Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cultivating Strategic Readers!

Truthfully, I am SO excited that state testing is just about over (aside from Math), because I am so excited to try out new reading strategies with my kiddos.  Now that we don't have to squeeze in any test prep stuff, I can use the extra time to get my thirdsters to dig deeper, use strategies, reflect on their own learning, and ultimately read more proficiently!  Also, since I'm conducting two workshops over the summer with two teaching buddies on comprehension strategies and strategic learning,  I figured that I probably need to experiment a little bit more with my own students first to determine what to share and what to let go this time.  :)  I'm hoping to post about some of these activities next week... but if you're interested in trying them out with your students in the meantime, you can check it out the 67 pager HERE!

Also, I am sorry to announce that I don't have a TON of pictures or activities to share this week due to the OAA and a sick day.  On Monday, we made test prep chains... and instead of doing individual chains... we made them into two long chains... one per class.  This activity was great for reviewing the essential skills on the last day before the test!

We also reviewed contractions, compound words, synonyms and antonyms using centers from Cara and Made 1st First Grade!  I used their weather centers to do a really simple center-based review of skills that ALWAYS show up on the OAA.

Other than that, we tested... and I spent a day at home with a terrible cold.  :)   See... my life is super exciting!

Oh, and of course I have to share this little test day gift from one of my students.  You know that they are pumped to take the OAA when they make their own "Rock the OAA" posters at home... Yay!  Have a great night, friends! :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Test Prep Blitz

This week has been one of the most emotionally draining weeks of my life... and teaching career.  Not my worst... but it's definitely up there.  We spent a whole week deviating from Reading Street to reinforce concepts and practice for the Ohio Achievement Assessment.  Today was a "Blitz Day", so we spent all day on Reading, and that meant a whole LOT of planning for me since we plan for our support staff in these kinds of situations.  I pretty much lived in my home office all week, and I am exhausted.  Beyond the test stress that I experience every year at this time, our district sadly had to let make several cuts this week.  I am very fortunate that I was not one of them, but my heart goes out to all of my colleagues who received bad news this week.  And lastly, my sweet grandmother passed today.  She had a massive stroke yesterday, and since she has been fighting melanoma for almost two years, her body just couldn't overcome it. If you're wondering what I am doing on my blog, it's honestly my coping mechanism.  I just have to stay busy... because I don't want to dwell on the loss of my grandmother.  She's never going to experience sadness or feel pain ever again, and for that, I am thankful.  God blessed me with a wonderful grandmother, and now she is with Him.  There is so much comfort in that realization.

So, with that said, here's a little peek at our week.  Our Ohio Achievement Assessment covers synonyms.  I did a super quick review with Christie's adorable Synonym Rolls unit... and a few of Cara's cute printables.  It was not nearly as cute... or as yummy as their lessons since we didn't make chef hats or cinnamon rolls... BUT I am now confident that they will remember the difference between synonyms and antonyms next Tuesday! Plus, we managed to brainstorm a whole lot of alternatives for said in the meantime... so I managed to sneak in a little writing instruction too!

We also played a few sessions of Vocabulary Star throughout the week to review test vocabulary, and this was a HUGE hit with the kids.  It's a game of musical chairs, essentially, but nobody gets "out"! The kids walk around the room until the music stops.  Whoever lands on a Vocabulary Star spot gives a definition or example of a test prep term.  Usually four students are standing each time, so this helps speed up the process, and it helps ensure that everyone gets a turn.   {I am pretty sure they think I am a total weirdo since I play songs from Rhinoceros Tap and The Philadelphia Chickens CD/book combos.  They totally crack me up!}  This is one of my favorite review activities every single year!

We've also spent some time reviewing Brain and Book... a process we utilize at my school for ALL students K-4.  This is not my original idea... so I can't take ANY credit for it, but it's a great process.
If you think this is something that could benefit your kiddos, you can check it out HERE for FREE! 

We have a little rockstar theme going for this OAA, and I am LOVING it.  Here's our red carpet... 

 We have a Wall of Fame {in progress} right now too.  I am going to add more stars next week... 
what you can't see is that I also put our class picture on the door under the window!

These shooting stars are lining our Wall of Fame... pretty much flanking the celebrity door.  The kiddos worked with four different teachers today, and they earned a certain color for good behavior at each center.  They used the rainbow strips and the star to make their own shooting stars... our take on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  :)  After all, my kiddos are going to Rock the OAA!

We used Tiffany Gannon's Rock-themed test prep posters and her guitar template for our posters.  {I always cover up a ton of bulletin board space with posters rather than taking everything down!

Here's a quick video run-down of the rest of our photo-worthy activities.  I'm hitting the wall!
The SmartBoard interactive practice session was obtained from SMART Exchange.   We used the fingerprint cards I talked about in  last week's post with this.

We also spent some time practicing graphic organizers.  When I say we, I mean that I handed all of this over to one of our fab Title teachers, and I took pictures to document later, because I was working on extended responses with the groups.  :)  I took the less-than-exciting center to drive it home! This Venn is from Lesson Plan S.O.S.  The bits and pieces for the popcorn web are by Abby.  I seriously survived this week with a little help from my bloggy friends.  Otherwise, I am fairly certain that  would have had to give up eating and sleeping for the week!  So thanks bloggy buds! 

I'll try to pop in sometime next week with an update on anything that transpires on Monday.  As you can see... I still have some fun up my sleeves thanks to a few of  Cara's synonym/antonym, contractions, and compound word centers and Working 4 the Classroom's cute strategy chains!  I also prepared Kristen's cute boombox and plan on one more round of Vocabulary Star!

What do you do to prepare your kiddos for standardized testing?  I'd love to hear...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tax Day Super Savings!

Spring Break has come and gone, but the good news is, IT'S TIME FOR ANOTHER BREAK!  A TAX BREAK THAT IS!  Everything in my TpT store is on sale for 15% off TODAY only!  Oh, but it gets better!  LOTS of TpT sellers are getting in on the action, and chances are, many of your favorite sellers are throwing sales too!  Break me off a piece of that... Tax Break Sale!

Don't forget to check out these FREEBIES {& 18 more more} while you're there! :) 

Click to check out the sale... and maybe score a bunch of freebies too!  :)  Happy Tax Day!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Reviewing Test Terms Hollywood Style!

Looking for a simple way to review test vocabulary with your kiddos?  Use this 54 page bundle to play "Vocabulary Star"!  It works a little like musical chairs... only nobody ever gets out. Whenever the music stops, four students stand up if they land in a "Vocabulary Star" seat.  Simply pull a card, hold it up, and ask each student to tell you the definition of terms in their own words.  Pick and choose terms, or break the game into chunks over several days to review for the big testing premiere! Of course, you may also opt to use the word cards as a test prep word wall to occasionally call out or use a flashlight as a "spotlight" to review definitions throughout the year! {This file also includes a template for recording "spotlight words" and thinking about the definitions.}

* This file was created to align with the OAA, but may be useful for other state tests too.

* You may choose to use this in non-testing grades as well to practice terms that you are learning in class. :)  It covers a lot of basic terms, and a lot of terms that show up in the Common Core.

* This file does not included definitions for the words at this point in time due to time constraints!  :)  They will most likely be added later... this summer. At this point, I have until the 24th to get ready for our Reading OAA! Every minute of my planning time is precious! :)  Have a great Sunday!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Last night, I woke up abruptly sometime around 3 AM.  Thoughts were invading my head... taking over... holding me hostage.  I was on a mental rollercoaster ride for almost two hours.  A continuous string of thoughts wound around my brain like an endless spaghetti noodle.  What time are spring pictures?  What do I need to bring to my meeting tomorrow morning?  I need to remember to look through my OAA file.  I wonder if I can make the Koosh ball review game this weekend?  How can I download the SMARTBOARD Notebook file onto my laptop?  Do I have to pay for it?  Oh, no!  I still need to upload the software for the Luna projector!  Shoot!  How am I going to rework my intervention groups?  How am I going to review test taking strategies?  What do I need to cut out of the next unit to get us ready for state testing and prepare us for end of the year testing?  And it went on... and on... and on.   Eventually, I fell asleep, but I honestly considered smashing my cell phone into tiny pieces this morning when my alarm went off.  I hit the snooze button at least four times before my husband made me get up and get moving.  :)  I'm very pleasant in the morning, if you can't tell.  {Yeah, not so much.} 

At any rate, we are knee deep in Benchmark testing again.  Of course, after rescheduling my spring observation FIVE times, my observation fell on a review day.  I was totally nervous about being observed on a review day, but because I've been observed several times a year for six consecutive years, I coached myself enough to RELAX and stop being OCD about it.  Sometimes, you just have to accept the way the cards fall.  Mine fell on a review day.  I survived... the observation went well... and here I am.  One day later.  Alive.  Exhausted, but alive.  :)  

Now, please don't misunderstand me.  I LOVE my job!  I love my district, and I love my kiddos! I just have a really serious case of perfectionism.  I am totally my own worst enemy, and I have a tendency to pick all of my stuff apart mid-lesson.  That doesn't exactly calm my nerves when I have visitors!! In the end, everything is fine, but if you could read my mind while I'm teaching... :) 

Essentially, I was trying to mix it up this time around for our review session.  I created review cards with questions like the ones they encounter on our Reading Street Unit 4 Benchmark test.  {You can download them for free on TpT if you think you can use them with your kiddos.}   I printed them off on cardstock and used them with the Learning Resources Mystery Hat.

One little peanut came up at a time to answer a question with answer buzzers while the rest of my students showed their answer choices on little fingerprint cards.  {Scroll to download from Angela Bunyi... one of my favorites!}  This is a wonderful tool for review... because I can instantly see a status of the class, and I know when I need to revisit a concept again.  Since I don't have clickers, this does the trick!

 I think the review lesson went pretty well, but I definitely missed not being able to see the questions and answer choices on the SMARTboard.  Sadsville... as Michelle would say.  I thought of it yesterday morning, but with insufficient time to whip something up... I rolled with it.  Again, the OCD had to take a backseat.  Next time, I plan on typing up each of the questions in a little Kooshball template for the SMARTboard.  Angela also blogged about a great template HERE, if you want to snag a copy for yourself!  Maybe I'll be able to share the finished document once I whip it up.  I have no idea when that will be... since I am treading water right now... but eventually!  I know you all feel me on this one!

Any-who! After our magic hat practice session, the kiddos went on a preposition egg hunt.  This was a classic Lesson Plan S.O.S. lesson, and it was a great way to review something that my students were still kind of grappling with in a fun way!  {I hid the eggs ahead of time for our review session to shave off some time.}  We completed their Thick/Thin Questioning lesson prior to our little Easter mini-break, and that was super fun too!   I let them hide their eggs for that one.

The final part of our Benchmark review was a little graffiti wall.  It was a nice open-ended review of a few comprehension concepts that were a little tricky for some of my kiddos, and it led to great discussions afterward.  I gave them about ten minutes to write whatever they wanted to write to demonstrate their comprehension prior to that.  Simple.  Just the way I like it.  Since this was more about ideas than conventions, I had to resist the urge to turn into the grammar police.  :)  This is just raw idea harvesting, friends!

Speaking of simple things, I thought that maybe you'd like to see the Task Cards Direction Sheet freebie in action.  I put all of my task card sets into little sandwich baggies, and then they go into the tub.  The direction sheets sit on top of the cards, because I want them to be easily accessible.  It's been a pretty new addition to my classroom, but the kids seem to have picked up on the routine quickly, and they like it.  Not too shabby.  :)

We're still tip-toeing through our America unit, but I have to be honest.  It's not getting the attention it deserves right now.  I need to work on that... but in the meantime... it's all about reading.  It's just the way it is when you're in a testing grade.  The world basically stops spinning around test time.  We have managed to talk a little bit about the common good and what it means to be a good citizen.  We also started to talk about immigration and "Packing for a Long Journey".  This lesson is a great way to introduce immigration to your kiddos while teaching them about determining importance.  It's only $1.00, and the kiddos LOVE it! {Note:  the suitcase is not included in the file.  This is one of my original files with old software.  It includes a direction sheet and a recording sheet.}

Lastly, I just want to spread the word about a little Earth Day Giveaway at Mrs, Freshwater's Class! I've teamed up with six other bloggy buddies... and I'm not gonna lie.  I kinda-sorta wish I could enter myself!  Haha!  Is that against blog etiquette?!  At any rate, click the picture below to find out how you can enter to win seven resources for your classroom!  Happy Hump Day!