Tuesday, May 29, 2012

EasiSpeak Giveaway and a Rationale!

Learning Resources has never disappointed me.  Seriously!  I am so excited about the latest gadget that I've been lucky enough to get my hands on!  The EasiSpeak USB Recorder is snazzy!  One of my students said, "I like that it's shaped like a real microphone.  It makes me feel like I'm a famous singer!"

The kiddos really didn't get a chance to play around with it for fun purposes this time, but I did have them record themselves for a running record.  I LOVE their hearAll Assessment recorder, and while I think students could easily learn to use it, I think this little gizmo was so much easier for my students to manipulate independently.  I was informed that it is more "comfortable" than other machines they have used for similar purposes, because the record button doesn't hurt when they hold it down.  I tried having them tap the button until it turned red, but holding it down was much more fruitful.  :)  We had a few mix-ups, but simply having them hold the button and release it when they were finished was so much easier for them!

I love how easy it is to use, as I said, but more than that, I love how crisp and clear the audio files are.  They sound fabulous once you upload them to your computer, but they also sound great played through the microphone itself!  Another nice feature is that you can easily change the volume when you play back the files.  I am a big fan of volume control.  It's also easy to skip through files without having to plug it into the computer, but friends, it's so simple to hook up to the computer with a USB cord.  This is a wonderful tool.  Now, I know you have read about my practical uses for recording devices in my classroom, but I would love to plug this into a fluency center next year.  I want to teach the kiddos how to use it themselves, and I plan on leaving it in the center on Fridays for them to read the poem of the week aloud.  I'm also working on revamping my old fluency posters to include some fluency activities.  I would love to use the EasiSpeak with them too!  Hopefully when I post a winner next week, I'll have my fluency bundle ready to go.  {Keep reading to find out why MIGHT is the operative word in that statement.}

Here's what you need to do to win an assessment recorder for your classroom... for a total of 4 entries!  Are you excited yet?!?! 
{Don't forget to leave your email address to ensure that I can get a hold of you if you should win!}
Follow my lil' ole slice of cyberspace, and share how you plan to use the recorder with your kiddos. :)
Like Learning Resources on Facebook, click their wall, & tell them that One Extra Degree sent you!
Follow their blog, and tell them I sent you!
Follow Learning Resources on Twitter.

The winner will be drawn next Tuesday, June 5th, 2012.  Make sure to check back in for the winner!
Easy peasy lemon squeezy!  Now, here's where my absence excuse comes in.  My rationale, if you will.  Friends, I have gotten off-track.  My grandmother passed, and then I started getting sort of piled under.  I am so sorry that I haven't been posting as much as I was.  I feel so bad about it!  Really!  
Here's what I've been up to while I've been on my unofficial blogging hiatus:

Of course, I've been teaching.  We did a fun R.A.F.T. writing activity for the end of the school year, and the kids were so into it.  This was the first time I ever did a R.A.F.T.   I've apparently been living under a rock, but I can see so many ways to plug this into Social Studies next year.  Can't wait!  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this strategy, you present your students with 2-3 writing options around a certain topic.  They choose one of them to write about.  They basically assume a role and  write to a specific audience in a specific format about a specific topic.  This is so versatile, and FUN!  Unfortunately, I forgot to snap any student examples! Sorry!

We also had a little fun with the 3-2-1 Strategy.  I will try to create a bookmark to share this week, but in the meantime, here's a picture!  {The bookmarks were created by my professor, so I am not able to share this particular template.}  Anyway, I had the kids use page markers to help keep them organized.  We read "The Story of the Statue of Liberty" together, then I sent them off to do some thinking with their bookmarks.  After a few minutes, we came back together to share out our responses.  It was really great, and the kids really delved into the story deeply.  We had a wonderful discussion, and the kiddos said that the bookmark and page markers helped them prepare for our dialogue.  You can't beat that!  :)  I will be doing this again too!  I've used the strategy, but never as a bookmark.  My little page marker add on definitely helped me support my little learners even more!

In other news, I've been gathering materials and working on a summer workshop... {Of course, I am sharing my great love of Tanny McGregor's book.  I am a Comprehension Connections addict!}

I've been trying to keep my new flowers alive in our mini-drought.  You can tell that my hydrangeas  are still scorched...

I've been trying to weed our garden... the first summer in our home has been a tad daunting.  I can't even tell you how many loads of weeds I've stacked up in our wheelbarrow.  Gross!  I'm also trying to stay away from our little garden snake friend...

I'm trying to wrap up a grad school course before I start another one in about two weeks...

We have also tried to have our family/friends over for cookouts lately.  Our house has been a little like Grand Central Station... see!

Most importantly, I have been trying to spend some quality time with my husband and fur baby.  This includes church, ballroom dancing... flea markets... dog agility courses... etc. etc.  Family is always first!  So, I am so excited that I get to spend more time with them in three more days... and make my bloggy comeback!  I have so much to share... and so little time... but I promise I will make it up to you! :)

If you are still reading this monster post... don't forget to play along to try to win your very own EasiSpeak digital recorder!!!  :)  Winners will be drawn next Tuesday evening!  Ready, set, go! :)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Little Bit of This... A Little Bit of That...

Friends!  I am so sorry that I've neglected my little slice of cyberspace lately.  I am, quite honestly, in survival mode.  I am just trying to keep the momentum going in my classroom and in my coursework.  Of course, real life (outside of school) has also been keeping me busy!  Life is crazy... in a good way... :)

Seriously though.  Please excuse my absence!  Although I don't have anything earth-shattering to share, and I haven't been taking a bazillion pictures lately, I still managed to scrape together a few classroom happenings to share.  :)  This could get messy, but I'm going to be keeping this post fairly short and sweet.

We've been working with nonfiction features a little bit.  When I say "a little bit", I truly mean it.  I am very accustomed to working on HUGE nonfiction features books.  This version is a little bit more condensed and concise.  It's a nice review for the end of the year though!

As part of our study of the American government, my students wrote their own classroom anthems.   We spent some time talking about what it really means to be patriotic before we watched Carrie Underwood sing the national anthem at a Super Bowl on YouTube.  The kids were so adorable... standing up... hands on their hearts... singing along.  My heart melted then and there.  Afterwards, we talked about what we feel when we sing the anthem and why we feel the emotions that we do.  After a brief discussion of pride and patriotism, we talked about our pride for our classroom and how it is similar to what we feel about our country in some ways.  Then, the kiddos started writing their own anthems and shared them out.  They turned out really well... and most were to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner.  :)

In other news, we spent some time playing with words that fascinate us, baffle us, tickle us, and basically amaze us.  We read Donovan's Word Jar, and we have been adding words to our jar chart ever since.  (My real tangible word jar was way too hard to manage with two classes, so this was a quick fix for now.) This isn't anything fancy or fabulous, but I LOVE seeing how attuned they have been to language and precise vocabulary lately.

Of course, we practiced glossary skills a little bit with partners too. This is another crucial vocabulary building skill that is so important... as long as you don't rely on it too much!  ;) Again, nothing fancy!  I just wrote words on construction paper, flipped them upside down, mixed them around, and had my students come up in pairs to draw a word from the pile.  Then, they looked up the definition, recorded it on the paper, and drew a pictoral representation of the word.  A few groups also put the definition into their own words.  Ultimately, each group was responsible for teaching their term to the class.  They loved this... and it was super simple on my end!  The other kids sketched pictures next to each term and added definitions next to it in their own mini-dictionary.

The only other decent photograph I managed to take over the past few weeks is a little torn paper flag craftivity that we completed on American Symbols.  It was a nice formative assessment piece.  This kiddo is definitely on the right track.  They just confused our state bird... the cardinal... as a national symbol instead of a state symbol.  This was a great way to see what still needs to be clarified before we wrap up the unit.  (Confession:  We made these maps before Winter Break.  I've been hoarding them until now, because I knew we'd be strapped for time this spring!  Ha!)

Well, that pretty much sums it up.  We've been super busy reviewing for our final End of the Year test with tons of centers, games, and SmartBoard activities, but I haven't been the most devoted photographer, as you can tell! :)  Anyway, with just a few days left in the school year, I think it's safe to say that I've survived my first year in my new district.  I can't wait to see what next year has in store... :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

My TpT Wares!

Wowza.  Friends, I don't know about you, but I could really use a summer vacation!  :)  I was out of school all day today planning a summer workshop with some colleagues, and I am just as exhausted as I would be after a day at work with the kiddos!  On top of that, I just started up another literacy course this evening, so my Mondays and Wednesdays are pretty tied up for the next month until I start another summer course.  :)  Life never slows down!  Does it?  How do you all do it with kids?!  All I keep thinking is... I have one more class in the fall!  I have one more class in the fall!  I can already hear the commencement song... "Da dadada da da... Da dadada daaaaaa..." ;)  Music to my ears!

Anyway, speaking of the fall, I know we're not even finished with this school year, but I am already thinking ahead to August.  Please forgive me!  :)  I made a few purchases on Sunday, and I am in LOVE!  So, I'm linking up with Erica to share my favorite purchases with you all! 

I picked up a copy of Hope King's fabulous Writing Portfolio.  I LOVE writing... I LOVE teaching writing... and I LOVE celebrating writing with my students.  Looking back on their growth is so motivating and encouraging, so I cannot wait to use this next year with my kiddos!  Honestly, she is one of my absolute faves!  :)  You can't go wrong with a Hope King product! Look how cute this is too!

I am also looking forward to using Babbling Abby's Back to School for Big Kids!  I was so jealous last year when she created Fun with Firsties and Super in Second!  I love her ideas for building community and establishing rapport with your kiddos... and I absolutely cannot wait to incorporate some of the ideas when we come back to school!  I think the little backpack activity is stinkin' adorable... but then again... is there anything she makes that isn't absolutely precious?!  Okay, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't excited to do the Jitter Juice lesson too!  Third grade can still be cutesy and fun!  Don't let anyone else rain on your parade and tell you otherwise just because it's a testing grade! :)

As you all know, I am a big fan of poetry!  I feel like I already have a nice foundation, but I want to continue improving and growing.  I have created a lot of resources that address poetic elements and the poet's craft, but I don't have a TON on specific types of poetry.  So, with that said, I am really looking forward to using Natalie Kay's Poetry Pack.  It outlines several different types of poetry with easy to use templates!  I'm totally looking forward to working these in next year to strengthen my instruction!

I purchased Ginger's Cursive Corral, and I am so excited to have an engaging way to address cursive writing... which honestly HAS NOT been emphasized enough in my classroom.  I absolutely LOVE the concept! :)

Lastly, I bought the cutest end of the year activity from A Cupcake for the Teacher.  The Write Stuff is super cute, and it makes me think of NKOTB, so it gets a few extra coolness points from me! Can't wait to make these with my thirdsters in a few weeks to wrap up the year!  What did you snag?!

I may go back through a few more stores to make sure that I am satisfied with my purchases, and I may have to make a few more after reading all of these link-ups!  Luckily, the sale runs through tomorrow, so I still have time to do a little last minute shopping!  Plus, tomorrow is my birthday, so I'm entitled to a little extra shopping, right?!  Don't forget to link up with Erica and share your purchases!  Inquiring minds want to know... what's in your bag?!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Token of Our Appreciation! {SALE}

Wowza!  Can you believe that another year is winding down?   Friends, we have 17 more days, and that is pure craziness.  I'm wrapping up my sixth year, and I cannot believe how quickly the years fly by!  {I'm also celebrating my 28th birthday on Tuesday.  It has the same effect on me!  Ahhhh... I can feel 30 inching closer and closer every single day!  Haha!}  Let's move on, shall we?!  :)

If you're like me, you're probably already plotting and planning for next year!  To help you get a jump-start, I've decided to participate in the Teacher Appreciation Sale on TpT with lots of my bloggy buddies!  Everything in my Teacher's Pay Teachers store {One Extra Degree} will be 20% off from May 6th through May 8th {my birthday}! TpT is offering an additional 10% off when you plug in coupon code TAD12.  Click on the picture below to check out my products if you feel so inclined.  :)

Of course, this means that all of my new products will be marked down as well! :)  Thanks for supporting my blog and my little TpT store.  I love learning from all of the talented teachers and bloggers in cyberspace!  I wish you all the best of luck as you finish out your year! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012


I am always trying to switch up my vocabulary instruction and keep it interesting.  I want my students to be engaged, excited, and above all to learn their targeted vocabulary words.  :)  I don't want them to memorize, test, and forget.  I want them to remember them, savor them, & make the words a part of their written and spoken vocabularies.  Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it doesn't have to be that way.  Helping kids to conceptualize, explain, and play with words has great benefits.  {Duh, right?}

Well, today, my students were introduced to their new vocabulary Holly-Word style!  :)  I spent some time explaining the process to them, and we looked at slides in my Strategic Readers bundle on the SMARTboard as we discussed each role card.  (I left my posters in my car by mistake, so luckily digital files do the trick!  In fact, it was nice to enlarge it for the time being anyway!)

After we reviewed the role cards, I explained that they would be grouped and each member of the group would be given a specific job to do.  This time, they would only be given one vocabulary word instead of multiple words.  {I sorted the cards into little sandwich baggies prior to the lesson to make grouping a little less time-consuming.}

My thirdsters were told to look up the meaning of their words in the glossary and to think about what they already know about their words from their own lives/experiences. They recorded the definitions on the backs of their cards, and then spent a few minutes planning a little acting gig.  Each group got a chance to share the word, the definition, and act out a little skit to teach the class about their words.

In between each group, I had the kiddos turn and talk.  They used each word in a sentence to help cement the meanings, and they were totally in love with it.  I literally got an "Ooo la la" out of this lesson, and I never underestimate the power of an "Oo la la".  Especially when it's from one of my wigglers.  :)

We also used the Magnificent Minute cards & printable this week.  I didn't snap a picture, but here's a few shots from last week!  This was a quick way to assess prior knowledge, but the cards cover self-reflection and a wide range of skills/purposes.  :)

In other news, one of my students has informed me that he is working on a new book.  Apparently tributes from 90 districts carry really heavy lumber all the way around the world.  The main characters are two kids named Mason and Ashley, and I have been told that it's going to be more exciting and more "appropriate" than "The Hunger Games".   Get ready for "The Lumber Games"!  ;)