Friday, September 28, 2012

Nose to the Grindstone Mode

I am no different than any other teacher in America.  Let's face it.   It's that busy time of year.  Since I took the weekend "off" last weekend to go out of town with Mr. Wonderful, I'm really feeling it.  I have SERIOUS work to do today and tomorrow for school... and grad class.  I am hoping to conquer the paper mountain and get all of my lesson plans/intervention groups planned for next week by tomorrow night.  We'll see how that goes.  My ten-year high school reunion is at 7 pm, and I was the party planner, so I can't spend ALL DAY on it on Saturday.  I have places to be and people to see, so  more than likely, the work will creep into Sunday too.  Boo! Hiss!  ;) 

I feel like I've been kind of neglecting my little blog-o-sphere, so thanks for hanging with me!  Buckle up for another quick recap... whirlwind style.

We are still working on economics, and I am enjoying this unit of study a TON this year!  We even started our own Beth Newingham-inspired bank thanks to nudging from my teaching partner.  I had decided to create the "Bank" for my room... but it was really more like a cash register.  This took it to the next level, and the kiddos love it!  We're going to be writing checks for classroom jobs... and the banker will "cash" them here.  :)  Confession:  We're off to a late start! 

This is an anchor chart we created to discuss spending and saving as part of our Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday study.  We did a little Brain and Book action with this too!

We also explored our vocabulary Holly-Word style!  :)  The kids LOVE this activity... it's from my Cultivating Strategic Readers bundle.  It was a HUGE hit! (I blogged more in-depth about the activity last year... HERE if you're interested in learning more about it.) 

The Holly-Word activity was a great way to practice glossary skills in a non-threatening and FUN way.  The kids loved working in groups, teaching, and performing!  We spent some time as a class looking at how the glossary is organized in our RS books. I created an anchor chart as we looked up the word "amount" together.  (You'll notice that I left out guide words entirely right now.  I am teaching them to scan first... and we'll get more strategic later.  It's not my best chart ever... but it did the trick.  I pointed out all of the components and then underlined/highlighted what they needed for the assignment.  It helped them know what to pay attention to and what to ignore.)  I should have made this ahead of time to really clarify the directions and to avoid running out of room... and messy handwriting.  Hey!  You live and you learn.  I went back through afterward and colored in the block letters.  I couldn't resist after all.

In other news, we've been working on sequencing.  We brainstormed clue words that help us understand the sequence of a story.  This was the aftermath.  I used this with the brainstorm activity in my Literacy Aficionados pack.

If you're departmentalized, like I am, here's an idea to keep your kids straight and help them remember their materials.  My partner came up with the idea of laminating blank charts and writing in dry-erase markers.  She writes on my zebra chart... and I write on her cute frog chart so that our kiddos always know what to bring to class.  Sure, it rubs off a little bit, but it's nothing that a little TLC can't fix.  This has been a great management tool this year!  I don't know how we ever survived without it last year.

I write on Miss K's chart.  :)

Miss K writes on my chart!  Viola! :)
 Lastly, my writing anchor charts officially transferred over to the CRAFT board for display.  I love having a designated spot for writing craft lessons this year!  :) 

That's a wrap!  Now it's time to settle down with my stack of papers and put my nose to the grindstone.  I've got my relaxation candles burning to help me burn the midnight oil!  I just need comfy clothes and a sweet tea.  Then, I should be ready to go! 

I may even go buck wild and grade papers on our couch instead of in my "lair".  Husbands can come up with the greatest terms of endearment, right?!  :)  Bahahaha!  Here's to having a semi-productive, semi-relaxing evening.   You can picture me right here.  ^^^^    Have a great weekend friends!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Shout All About America: Classroom Elections for Kiddos!

The 2008 election project was very special to me.  After spending two years as a Title I teacher, I finally had my very first classroom.  I was also appointed to a district team on brain-friendly teaching to help increase rigor & relevance in our schools.  The dialogue we had about how the brain learns significantly impacted the way I approached teaching the election.  Once my gears started turning, I asked a good friend of mine to team up, and the rest is history! 

Depending on how deeply you want to dive in, you may decide to organize a school-wide mock election like we did...or you could definitely pull this off at the classroom level!  (That's the plan this time around.)  Although we never delved too deeply into political affiliations, we did want to expose our kiddos to real issues and vote for real candidates, even if it was slightly watered down.

As a result, our students conducted playground polls, ran polling centers, campaigned, & listened to speakers who worked for both major political parties.  (We asked for both speakers to focus on what it’s like to volunteer and what kind of work goes into running a campaign at the local level.  We asked that they did not talk about the actual platforms with our kiddos, and we asked parents to talk with their children at home.)  In some ways, we had to tread lightly.

Flash forward a few years!  I jazzed up my old files and created "Shout All About America: Classroom Elections for Kiddos!"  This updated & revamped packet outlines how we implemented our mock election, but I do realize that every school is different. What worked for us may require tweaking in order to work for you.  I hope you can use the majority of the contents without reinventing the wheel, but if you have to tweak something, I hope this gives you a starting place.  I did a lot of activities that are included in Cara Carroll’s PintSized Presidential Fun file…so rather than recreating my old documents, I’m going to be using her super cute unit as another supplement.  You'll definitely want to check it out!  

It is also important to note that I pulled resources from various places that I cannot share in this download.  I pulled resources from Scholastic News,, old Mailbox magazines, and  I am 100% positive that there are greater resources out there this election year than I stumbled upon in 2008. (Thank you Blogger and TpTWooo Hooo!) I am sure that you will be able to find other supplemental resources through blogs, Pinterest, and Google to make this unit your own.  For starters, you may want to check out my Social Studies board on Pinterest!

Additionally, you should know that this file is a zip-file with a 99 page pdf and two editable PowerPoint files (with 8 more pages that can be customized to meet your own needs).  I am so excited to be able to share it with all of you, so I am going to be putting it on sale today through tomorrow for 20% off HERE!  I hope you can use it with your little peanuts!  Happy Sunday!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What About Me?

This is just a quickie to share a few resources with my RS peeps! :)  I hope you can use something!  The first thing I'd like to share are little book covers for the focus board.  Mine is zebra print, so I know that won't fit with everyone's classroom themes, but JUST IN CASE, I'm sharing them HERE!

Click here to download journal prompts for the story!  I'm loving the cut & glue format!  Plus, they correspond so perfectly with my Essential Questions Posters.  :)  It makes my heart happy!

Help yourself to the spelling lists too while you're at it.  It's the same file from last week if you already snagged it.  Just FYI.

The vocabulary list can be picked up HERE for free as well.  Have a great week friends!

Oh, and this will be our poem of the week.  I am unable to share it in pdf form since I adapted it from Cherry Carl to pretty it up, but a lot of people ask about what I use with my fluency folders, so I figured I'd share as much as I can! :)  Have a great week friends!  Don't forget to enter my giveaway!  One lucky reader will win a fabulous MagnaBorder!!!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Writing Character Descriptions & a GIVEAWAY!

Last year, we took a little looksie at Farmer Brown from "Click Clack Moo" to learn how to write a character description.  This year, we focused on "The BFG".  As I've mentioned before, this is one of my absolute favorite read alouds, and it is the only story that I consistently read with a voice.  A distinct BFG voice.  It's remained the same for four years now, and every year, the kids eat it up with a spoon.  Just a note of caution though... Roald Dahl can be a little borderline sometimes.  If I come across something even borderline questionable... like mentioning wine... I paraphrase or censor it.  :)  Seriously though, my husband lovingly calls me "Chastity Prudence" when he thinks I'm being too conservative, so it may be a character flaw.  It's a fabulous book though... and definitely worth reading!

We started out listing the BFG's actions... and then we talked about what his actions say about him.  Then we started listing character traits!  I think my kiddos did a really nice job with this.  

Okay, and just so you don't think I am the worst ear-artist ever.  Here's a little snapshot of Roald Dahl's version.  It will help me sleep at night if you don't think I am seriously artistically challenged.  :)  Ahem. 

Now that I got my own insecurities out of the way, let's keep going! Ha! After we talked about his character traits and actions, we worked together to write a paragraph about our friend, the BFG.  Once we completed our paragraph, we reviewed the process together, and I passed out a more complex character description from Reading Street.  We talked about the composition and what the author did well, then I told them that it was their turn to write about a character!  We didn't finish them yet... but they are SO INTO IT.  I'm hoping to wrap up on Monday!

One of my little guys is totally into "Ricky Ricotta's Giant Robot", and he went ALL OUT with his drawing.  I wish I would have snapped a second photo once he started describing the character, because it was precious.  He had a hard time coming up with character traits at first though.  He told me, "Mrs. Nickerson, robots don't really have personalities.  They're robots."  So, I had to ask lots of questions about the giant robot to get him to realize that, even so, even though it's a machine, we can still describe them.  :)  Maybe we need to tackle personification a little earlier this year.

We had our first spelling test of the year, so I officially got to test our my new (free) spelling test template.  Here's the verdict:  I LOVE IT!  I graded the tests, then I passed them back face down to keep grades under wraps.  Then, I talked to the kids about how it's so important to set goals, and I shared a few examples from my life.  After that, I asked them to peek at their grade and think about whether their scores made them feel happy, excited, indifferent, or disappointed.  They wrote about how they prepared (or didn't prepare) for this test, then they wrote about what they will keep doing or do differently next time.  I had them share their goals with me to make sure we were on the right track... and they definitely were.  I am hoping this reflective tool helps them with study skills and goal-setting this year... and in the future!

The first nine-weeks is kind of hairy. It always is. Plus, we teach on a rotation, so I don't do a different story every week.  I often start new stories mid-week, which is exactly what happened this week.  We just started "What About Me?", so I don't have a TON to share, but I am LOVING the essential questions and daily questions posters.  Having them ready to go has been such a help this year.  I wish I would have had this last year!!!

We squeezed in our first gallery walk of the year, and I was so happy with the outcome.  Check out the poster for the word knowledge.  It's kind of hard to see on the screen, and it kind of looks like a hot mess, BUT I was especially happy to see the following comments.  "Your brain grows when you learn something" and "memory box in your brain".  We've been having lots of talks about schema & metacognition, plus we've been doing lot of "Brain & Book" work.  If you look really closely, you'll see a box with dendrites in it.  Dendrites, friends!  I was explaining why we stop to do brain breaks once in a while... complete with a mini-lesson/drawings of the brain showing how our brain grows & changes when we learn something... and how we want to activate both sides of our brain to do our best learning.  I was happy to see that it stuck with someone.  Can I also just say how much I love the picture of the girl thinking about cats, math, crayons, dogs, art, and pencils?!  Cuteness!

I'm hoping to post again tomorrow with some goodies for "What About Me?", but in the meantime, who's ready for a little giveaway action?  I'm teaming up with Learning Resources to give away a set of fabulous magnetic borders.  I LOVE mine!  They really make the whiteboard POP!  See!  I also love that the border doesn't take up a lot of writing space.  It's also a nice way to create separate areas on your whiteboard without using duct tape (and leaving sticky residue behind afterward).

If you're interested in adding some PIZZAZZ and FLAIR to your whiteboard with MagnaBorders, here's how you can win a border for your classroom!

{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.
Follow Learning Resources on Pinterest.
If you want to have a bonus entry... blog about this post and leave the link in my comments section!

The winner will be drawn next Saturday, September 22, 2012.  Make sure to check back in for the winner! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Whirlwind Week, a Freebie, and Hair Therapy!

The first few weeks of school have blown through my life... uprooted my sleep cycle... and left me slightly discombobulated. {Can I celebrate the fact that I correctly spelled the word discombobulated without the aid of a dictionary... even in my state of over-stimulation?!}  In other news, the first few weeks have also been invigorating and exciting.  I really enjoy cultivating new relationships with my students, and I have had a lot of fun with 59 new kiddos!  Here's a little recap of what I managed to photograph!

We had our first word of the week! The chalkboard sign is from my Literacy Aficionados pack! 

We also started Boom Town officially.  I am loving having all of the essential questions posted! 

I am also loving the little mini journal templates that tie into each question of the day!  I used the Smarboard to model how to RTQ (rephrase the question).  Then, we created a list of student-generated responses before merging them together for a quality answer.  I plan on modeling this for a few stories before letting them do this with less support! This activity led to GREAT discussions, and it was nice to be able to type everything out and easily erase rather than writing on the whiteboard.  

I pulled out my old Realism/Fantasy chart as a discussion point.  I usually make my charts WITH my kiddos... but instead... I decided to reveal one line at a time and talk about it.  Instead of using color-coded stickies like I did last year... I just gave them the same color.  I had my kiddos take it with them when they read independently, and then I had them add it to the board on either side when they were done with their name and the title listed.

We also talked about that really LONG word: metacognition.  I used "Saturdays & Teacakes" to teach them about the "Real Reading Salad."  ( I like to write the word metacognition on a sentence strip to really play up what a BIG word it is and how smart they will sound when they learn it.

We used Abby's sweet crayon template to practice our spelling words, and I think they turned out super cute! :)  I cut everything myself... for the sake of time.  I probably will not do this again considering that I have two classes (59 kiddos) and my knuckle literally bruised and blistered.  I don't recommend doing THAT much cutting in a 24 hour period anyway.  I will probably trace them and have the kiddos cut them out during their morning work block instead.  Believe it or not, I've never had volunteers.  I had ONE for a short time during my first year.  I'd love to be able to utilize parents better.  Maybe this is the year!!! :)  Anyway, I try to make sure that we don't do a lot of cutting in class, because it takes forever, and third grade is jam-packed as it is!  I also try to always have a sample hanging in the front of the room for a point of reference!  I think their little crayons look ADORABLE with their little mustaches and eyelashes!  SO precious!

We created an anchor chart to launch our economics study.  I color-coded the responses by class to distinguish between them and save paper.  I clearly have some mini-adults in my class this year!

We also started digging back in to Brain & Book this week.  Our school has a simple process of using brain and book to help students identify whether their answers come from the text or thinking! It's a great way to get students to go back into the text to find evidence.  We have them box in the title and activate their prior knowledge or make predictions.  Then they box and number each paragraph.  They answer each comprehension question and write whether their answers came from their brain or from their book.  If it's from the book or text, they have to give a paragraph number.  I didn't come up with this idea, but I wish I would have.  It's fabulous! Since my kiddos were exposed to it last year, I want to spend some time reviewing it!  I've revised my brain and book file to share with you!  This weekend, I added cards to laminate and glue to popsicle sticks.  I want my students to hold up brain or book when we are working on comprehension passages together, at least initially!  Help yourself!

Okay, and let's talk a moment about how much I've fallen in love with my SMARTboard this year.  Last year was the first year I had access to one on a regular basis, and I admit that I didn't use it as much as I should have until mid-year.  This year, it is one of my favorite things in the world.  I especially love it for taking attendance!  I grabbed this file for free from TpT!  Love it! I especially love that I can play on the word "goals" throughout the year, because truthfully, I don't like taking the extra time to do this for every single month.  Honesty! :) Gotta love it!

I also love the SMARTboard for dismissal purposes!  My partner plopped a school bus into a template... added a few text boxes... and viola!  Now we have a really simple way to track which buses have been called!  I put kiddos in charge of this at the end of the day.  So far... so good!

Now, I have to take a moment to acknowledge a few blogging pals who have SAVED my life this week.  I have a kiddo who doesn't know sight words, letter-sound correspondence, or how to articulate a few letter sounds.  It has been a great learning experience... and I've had to really rethink how differentiation looks in my classroom and what I pin on Pinterest!  I spent a TON of money on ink and paper this week to reach ONE kiddo... but this is exactly why I went in to teaching in the first place.  I love being able to help kiddos... especially the ones who need it most.   Thank goodness for blogging and TpT though... especially since a day is only 24 hours long!!!  I was able to quickly find and print out resources to use with my little buddy quickly!  So... thank you to Deedee Wills, Deanna Jump, Michelle Oakes, Leslie Ann, Erica Bohrer, Donna GlynnKim Adsit, Kathleen Pederson, and Rachelle Smith!  Ladies, you helped me through the week!   Thank you!

Finally, I wanted to share a picture of from my latest trip to the salon!  I've always been a strawberry blonde, but I've played with my hair color a lot to emphasize the blonde or red hues.  All the while, I've wistfully toyed with the idea of going totally BLONDE.  Maybe it's because I wanted to do something for MYSELF... maybe I needed a change... maybe it was hair therapy... whatever  you want to call it... I LOVE IT! :)  My stylist tagged me in this photograph today, and I couldn't resist sharing it with all of you!  (Isn't this the face of sheer exhaustion!?!  Ha!)

I hope you all enjoyed some time off! I will probably be blogging once a week now that school is back in session, unless something comes up and I just can't resist.  I have a lot of projects that I'm working on for grad school, and I'm trying to find more time for myself and my hubs.  :)  Balance isn't always my forte... but I'm working on it!  Until next week...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Reading Street Linky & Boom Town FREEBIES!

Happy Dance!  I am officially starting the first story in Reading Street this week, and I am kinda excited to have some consistency (& a starting point) this year.  It's only my second year with the program, but I feel so much more relaxed than I did at the start of last year when I switched districts and my whole teaching world changed.  Woooo hooooo!

This weekend, I typed up the most organized lesson plans I've ever written...  thanks to my sweet friend Erica Bohrer, and I LOVE it so much more than my old template! :)   {You can read more about how to snag the template from Ms. M. here!!!}  If you want to take a look at how chaotic my first "official" week is, then go ahead.  I repeat the same lesson with two groups... so I really only mapped out three days so far... and I think I might still tweak them.  My plans are never super stellar at the beginning of the year when I am trying to get into the swing of things.  Does anyone else ever feel that way?!  I usually really get in the groove after a few cycles.  :)  Click on the pic to download!  It's not editable... but you can check it out for ideas if you want!

While I was planning this weekend, I created journal prompts for Boom Town.  (I plan to create these one story at a time.  Grad school is KILLER!)   They are based on the questions of the day.  I think this is a critical component for fostering reflective thinking! :)  If you'd like to check them out, you can find them HERE!  Of course, these match up perfectly with the Essential Questions in my packet.  If you haven't snagged it yet, what are you waiting for?! :) 

I finally finished my vocabulary list for Boom Town too!  Again, this will be completed one story at a time, because I am WAY too busy to knock it all out of the park in one weekend.  I also included a word rating chart for the vocabulary words in this story!  It's in the same file!  Check it out!

Last year, I created Editing/Revising Checklists.  If you'd like to snag one for Boom Town, you know the drill.  :)  Grab it!

Friends,  I know I already posted about my new spelling sheets a while ago, but if you missed it and you're interested, you can snag them by following this link

I already posted about my new spelling test template as well.  It's also free in my little ole' shop!  Grab it! (I created a pre-test template today, so I added it to the existing file.  If you already have it, you MAY want to download it again! Just a friendly F.Y.I coming your way!)

I made Theme Posters that you are welcome to have as well! :)  They hang out on my focus wall!

This is a poster I created last year to teach Realism/Fantasy! :)

This is the anchor chart I created last year to teach the character description piece to my kiddos.  If you want to read about the lesson, you can read about it HERE.

In other news, I wanted to share some other supplemental resources I'll be using throughout this story!  :)  I bought a cute supplemental packet  for Boom Town from Sarah Kirby.  I'm using some of her posters for my focus wall.  It's worth a looksie!

I also plan on using Amy Lemon's Strengthen Your Sentences pack to reinforce sentence skills throughout the first unit.  I think it correlates perfectly!

I will beef up some of the writing in unit one with my Writing on Target unit.  It's great for launching peer editing, working on target skills (in this case: VOICE) and getting the kiddos to pay attention to the author's craft. 

Since we'll be working on spelling throughout the year, I plan on using these two resources pretty consistently: my Words Galore Goodies and Abby's Spelling for All Seasons.  I already mentioned her product after the TpT sale, but seriously, I am so pumped!

Of course, I am totally going to work my School Days Craze centers into the mix too! :) So FUN!

Since our Social Studies overlaps, I plan on pulling some resources from my Economy 101 file and my Lemonade Economics bundles to try to tie everything together throughout this nine-weeks & unit.  Our program can get a little dry! It's nice to be able to shift everything around to make it fit together perfectly!  I also plan on using some of Hope King's Economoney unit to tie into our curriculum & school wide economy.

In somewhat unrelated news, I also wanted to let you know that I'll be plugging in some Constitution Day activities as well.  We're required to teach it, and I'm excited to do it again this year!

Lastly, I have to acknowledge two great resources for RS teachers.  I LOVE the reading trifolds by Cindy Hulsey!  I found them last year when I was scouring the Internet for RS resources in a frenzy.  I love how they correlate with each story and address the questions that the series suggests.  It helps me hit the skills we need to hit without clutching my manual too much, and it was a great weekly routine too.  Well, as fate would have it, I actually got a little email from Cindy last week.  How fun is that?!  She wanted to let me know that she will be adding vocabulary booklets throughout the year for each story, and she sent one to me to check out!  It looks FAB-u-lous, and I will totally be mixing that in as well! She left a link to her website, and that's when I made the connection that I already use & love her trifolds.  All of her resources are free, and she is the sweetest lady ever! 

The other great free resource is Carl's Corner.  I think it may have been the first website I found as a brand new baby teacher.  :)  Anyway, it has lots of wonderful resources including RS goodies by grade level, and I especially love the poems.  Cherry Carl uses the vocabulary words in the poems and ties them into the overarching concept of the week.  I just love it!  I plan on using them as Poems of the Week for my fluency folders (another freebie) and classroom fluency work.  (I DID revamp the layout of mine...simply because I have OCD. I don't plan on sharing them on here out of respect for Cherry... but here's a screen shot... so you can see the kind of work that she does!  You can find her copies of the poems HERE!) If you don't want to do a poem of the week, you could make a great anthology of RS poems instead!

Whew!  What a MONSTER post! :) I thought it would be a quickie, but I guess I had more to share than I realized.  I get a lot of emails about RS, so I thought that I'd TRY to make a blog post about what I'm doing.  It doesn't mean I have all the answers, because I SO don't.  This is only my second year with the program, so I am sure I'll make lots of changes throughout the year.  I'd love to hear your favorite Reading Street resources and websites, so feel free to link up! I know that Waltke's Web is always near the top of the list.  It's another WEALTH of resources, for sure!  Also, if you have Pearson SuccessNet at your school, become friends with it.  It's a fabulous site, and it saves me from lugging home my manual on a daily basis!  It also has a great database for leveled readers!  I pull a ton of stuff up on the SMARTboard from the site!  It makes my heart HAPPY!

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