Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tried It Tuesday and #Teachertalktuesday

I'm linking up with What the Teacher Wants! and Apples and ABC's for #teachertalktuesday ! I spend most days with my phone out, grabbing pictures of the kids and their work, so this was really fun!
I've you are on Instragram, I'm Sarahbelle1980 (Sarahbelle is what my roommate called me in college, 1980 for my birth year!).  You can ignore the twitter handle because I mainly tweet about running.
Here are the pics I shared today:
 I finally finished sports themed literacy stations for my class, and so far my students are really enjoying it!  Are we the only 5th grade class that does literacy stations? 
 To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, my students are creating Mexican Brochures!  Here they are using their organizers to help them write the brochure.

Here you can see my upcycled calendar, which I'm also sharing for Tried It Tuesday!
Last summer, I spent what felt like ages trying to decide on a color theme for my classroom.  Pinterest really caused everyone to step up their games, huh? :-)  My room is B-L-U-E BLUE, so I decided to go with black patterned borders and bright blues, greens and pinks for accents.  I covered my chalkboard with more blue, since I have a SMARTboard and I don't use chalk any more.
This picture is from my first day working on my room.  Can you see my calendar crying out because it doesn't fit in?
Being super cheap frugal a crafty genius, I decided to keep the calendar, but try to hide the bright border on it.  I used duck brand duck tape to jazz up my old calendar!

Voila!  A new(ish) calendar!

Are you on Instagram?  Do you use literacy stations in the upper grades in your school? Don't you just LOVE duck tape?  Be sure to link up with all of these lovely ladies:  What the Teacher Wants, Apples and ABCs and Fourth Grade Flipper!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Five for Friday: Done with Testing!

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday

Woohoo! We just finished our last day of State tests today.  I am so relieved that all of this is behind us and SO ready to get back to some (REAL) teaching.

We still have two.full.months until vacation, so it's not quite time to relax.  Here are five things I plan to do between now and the end of June:

1.) Re-design my room, a bit.  Check out this hot mess:
So many things had to come down off of the walls for testing!  Right now, my room is pretty bare.  The desks are back in groups, but we need new bulletin boards up ASAP and a ton of decluttering will take place this week.

2.)  Cinco de Mayo!  I love to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with my students, even if it will really be May 3rd. :-)  We will start working on a (very) mini Mexico unit.  We've been learning about the Mayans for quite a while, but we haven't really studied Mexico at all.  So I made these posters to use for a gallery walk:
I'm going to hang them around the room and have the students walk around and take notes.  The information is very basic and very easy to read.

After they have their notes, we are going to create brochures:
The brochures are going to be so cute!  I let two of my girls pick the line art from Scrappin Doodles and they have been spreading rumors about next week's activities!
3.) Friday Surprise!  I find the end of the year to be really challenging in terms of classroom management.  My students are graduating, so there are SO many activities for them starting at the end of May, but often they lose focus in terms of academics.  This year, I'm going to try something new.  Each (or most) Friday there will be a special surprise to reward the kids that are focused.  This Friday, we will make guacamole! 

4.)  Reinvigorating my reading workshop.  I've been working on new literacy centers for what feels like ages.  I started in February with a basketball theme for March, but they never got completed!  This weekend, I'll get them finished and ready for my kids to get reaquainted with reading workshop.

5.)  Finish Wonder.  This book is all I've talked about lately.  My students are enthralled.  They are SO quiet while we are reading and so empathetic.  We read Via's description of August's face this week and I really appreciated their reactions.  I could see them touching their faces to understand her description.  And no one had anything unkind to say, which, frankly, I was very worried about.  But they listened. 
Enjoy your weekend!!!  Be sure to link up with Doodlebugs to share five random things!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Earth Day Poetry Activities - Giveaway!

We finished ELA testing today!  Woohoo!  What a huge relief!  Come what may with the results, I'm just so happy to have it behind us.

I can honestly say that nearly all of the kids I tested today (I only test ELLs who receive extra time), they really worked hard.  I was so happy to see them using the strategies that I taught them.  And for many of them, their writing was excellent :-)  They read the prompts and use text evidence.  Awesome.

In little bits, here and there, I've been trying to stick in some poetry.  I'd hate for April, National Poetry Month after all, to end without having taught a little bit of poetry!  And next Monday is Earth Day!  So I kind of mushed the two together with  Earth Day themed poetry activities (available on TpT).

On Wednesday, we worked on sorting Earth Day themed similes and metaphors.  The kids sorted the metaphors and similes and talked about the two things being compared.  Then they went to work on writing their own similes about the Earth.  I made this set differentiated and when I read "the river was as wet as water," I was really glad!

For my independent students, they received 8 cards with the frame of a simile (the river is _____ like a _____).  For students who need a little more structure, they received a set of characters with the characteristic included (the river is as fast moving as _____). And for students who need a LOT of support, they received cards with a place to brainstorn and scaffolded questions to guide them to write a simile.  For a couple of kids, I mixed two of the sets.  I gave one of my girls a highly structured page and the medium support page.

We also built some sentences with personification!  This was a fun activity!

To complete this activity, the kids picked a noun card, a verb card and a preposition card to help begin their personification.  I had to work on this in a small group with some of my ELLs to help them think creatively.  They built personifications such as "the flower laughed when the grass tickled her."  I was pleased!

Next week, we will start drafting cinquains and haiku.  I'm purposefully keeping it simple because we still have three more days of math testing at the end of next week and I hate to start something we can't finish!
I'm so relieved that my ELA testing is over, and pretty proud of this package, so I want to give away two copies of my Earth Day Poetry Activities product!
Leave me a comment with something exciting.  Did you finish testing?  Are you going on a field trip?  Is school over soon?  (Jealous!)  Be sure to include your email address and I will pick two people randomly during my lunch period tomorrow (sometime between 10:20 and 11:10am on April 19th)! 

So....tell me something exciting!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Favorite Writing Mini Lesson

I'm linking up with Ideas by Jivey for another installment of Workshop Wednesday!  This week's topic:  Favorite Writing Mini Lessons.  Since we have been ENTRENCHED in testing this week (one more day of ELA to go!), I'm pretty happy to think back to some of the lessons I've taught this year.  My favorite unit to teach is always narrative and this year, I'm really proud of the lessons I taught for writing leads.

When I taught narrative this year, I asked my students to write realistic fiction.  I find it's easiest for them if they think of something that happened to them but fictionalize it slightly by changing the traits of the main character or the outcome of the conflict.  Once they have the story idea all mapped out, they are ready to draft, right?
Ha. Never.
How often do you hear "I don't know how to start!" ?  That phrase drives me batty!  So this year, I spent a full day trying out different openings.  I didn't introduce this lesson as drafting, I just told my kids that we were going to try on a few different openings and then share.  I put this image up on the SMARTboard and we discussed each of the possible openings we could use (my story was about a girl who runs a race, just barely loses, then practices and wins the next race).
Next, I gave students their own lead sheet to complete.  It was just a half sheet of paper, so it wasn't intimidating at all.
From this student, you can see that he borrowed my first opening pretty heavily, but the rest of the work was authentic.  I kind of love "Issaiah {held} the bat so hard {that} his hand {hurt}."
This student wrote "When Tania put her feet on the ocean, she felt like she was going to drown and the creepy sea creatures were going to pull her down and eat her."  Vivid, no?

The kids shared their possible openings with each other and the next day were ready to draft.  Instead of struggling with what to write, I modeled how I could use my favorite opening to begin my story. 

 If you want to grab my model leads, the student hand out, my model opening paragraph and a rubric for the opening, click HERE!

What was your favorite mini lesson this year?  Be sure to link up with Ideas by Jivey to share!  And while you are there, be sure to enter her 300 Follower Giveaway!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tried It Tuesday: Tracking Observational Data

It doesn't feel right to just launch into this post the way I drafted it.  I'm completely heartbroken over yesterday's events at the Boston Marathon.  I've been a runner since my first little one was born and I earned the title marathoner last October.  The marathon is an unbelievable event.  And the finish line is a magical place.  My heart goes out to everyone who was there yesterday.
I don't have 26.2 miles in my legs, but I did run 2.62 in honor of the victims.
* * *
  Tried It Tuesday: Tracking Observational Data
Yuck.  I kind of hate that title.  It's so much jargon!  But I think it pretty accurately describes what I want to share with your for this week's Tried It Tuesday!

I think some of the best data you can get from kids is via observation.  Classwork errors are so important because they give us that low risk opportunity to teach students as they make mistakes.  And if your school is anything like mine is, keeping track of data is a huge focus.  I'm sort of at peace with how I track and analyze my students' performance on formal assessments, but having something to put in my data binder based on their everyday work is still puzzling me.

Last week, when we finished a math task fairly early, I gave my students a mixed review packet and assigned the first three problems.  The problems mirror tasks they might see on their state tests next week.  As I walked from table to table, I noticed a huge number of students made the same error on the first problem.  On a happier note, only one student made an error on the second item!

This is my copy of the student books.  I made an "x" and under that, just jotted down the names of the students who made an error on the first item.  I did the same for the second and the third items.  It's pretty obvious that I need to review the concept of a fraction as division to those students.  I plan to make a few task cards to go into my Mixed Review Math Test Prep task cards to address this. 

When we are all done with this practice, I'll put the entire thing into my data binder with a little sticky to note how I retaught or reviewed  a skill that was a problem for the class.

Here is another example from literacy:

What have you tried lately?  Be sure to link up with Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mentor Text Linky {Math Mentor Texts}

I'm linking up with Stacia and Amanda at Collaboration Cuties for another Mentor Text Linky! This week, I'll be sharing my favorite Mentor Text for Math:  Math Curse by Jon Sciescka and Lane Smith!

This book is a little different than other Math Read Alouds like A Remainder of One and The Greedy Triangle.  Rather than introducing one topic, this book shows us all of the math we are surrounded by everyday.  It's a GREAT beginning of year read aloud and I think will make a fun read aloud for the end of the year too!

The story focuses on a child whose math teacher, Mrs. Fibonacci, tells the class that there are numbers all around.  Then the child sees math everywhere!  There are fraction problems at lunch, probability while getting dressed, division when it's time to share cupcakes and logic while the parents decide who is right.  It's such a fun book with so many opportunities to have your students stop and solve the problems, but beware that the answers are on the back cover!

I love this book because its so fun for the reader to act out.  As the story evolves, I like to read with a sort of frenetic voice to mimic the character's energy as he is plagued by all the math following him around!  The kids get really into it!

I also love this book because it is a great way to get your students to think about all of the applications of math they use every single day.  When I read this with my students, I have them write their own scenes to add into the book.  Without fail, I have students who come to school the next day and want to tell the class about the math they saw when they left school!

What book do you use to help you teach math?  Be sure to link up with the Collaboration Cuties!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Reading Groups Organization

I'm linking up with Ideas by Jivey for Workshop Wednesday! This week's topic: reading groups organization.  Here's a little peak into my guided reading organization!

Ugh!  Glare!

I keep everything for guided reading in my guided reading binder: class lists, groupings, lesson plans and conference notes.
The first page in my binder is a flexible grouping sheet that my school provides.  We use this sheet to note the groups of students and their instructional focus.

I use a few gradebook pages from BusyTeachersCafe to keep track of the center rotations for the week.  I list the centers along the top to keep track of which student has been to which center during the week.  It's a little sloppy by the end of the month, but it gets the job done!
  You may notice that there are some students who do not go to centers.  This is because we have AIS and ESL during reading workshop, so those students are pulled out.

I use the same gradebook page to keep track of my reading conferences.  This page is from the first marking period, so it's a bit sparse.  I just note the date of the conference on the gradebook page. 
The rest of my binder is organized by guided reading group.  I keep my lesson plans and observation sheets in those sections.  
My school has one uniform conference/observation sheet that we all use:
This stays in the binder as well until it is completely filled in and then I move it to my data binder.

For lesson plans, I keep most of my questions in stickies in my books, but I like to jot down a few ideas before I start the lesson.  I made this little sheet to write my plans for two days of guided reading.  
I like having two days side-by-side.  It helps me remember what we've discussed and where we are headed. 

If you want to grab any of these forms, you can download this freebie from my TpT store!
Be sure to link up with Jivey to show how you organize your reading groups!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Finished Early Work in Math {Mixed Review Test Prep Task Cards}

There is nothing I LOATHE more than wasted time.  I can't stand seeing notebooks close when students are finished with their work.  With most classes, I spend a few days at the beginning of the year reminding them of all the things they should be doing when they "finish" early and they are independent for the rest of the year.  This class is different.  It's April and I'm still reminding them that there is no such thing as "finished" in school.

After thinking on this over the Spring Break, I decided to make one subtle change to my math workshop.  Instead of keeping the task cards on the back table, I decided to move them to the table bins, along with the recording sheets.  Instead of having to get up and move across the classroom, now the cards would be right at their fingertips and they can work on a few cards while waiting to move on with the rest of the class!

My students worked on the cards in little spurts throughout math workshop.  Today we worked on algebraic thinking and when they finished their work, they took a few task cards to review the major content for fifth grade.

I just posted these Mixed Review Test Prep Task Cards on TpT.  The cards help students review operating with decimals, fractions, algebraic expressions and volume concepts.
There are 36 cards, but I am pretty certain that I am going to be adding to the set and updating them throughout the month.  Most of the cards are word problems with different skills embedded, so students have to practice the same skills they will have to apply on their State tests at the end of this month.  But these task cards are a little cuter and a little more fun than a page of test prep!

I'm going to share these cards with the first three people to comment, so tell me, what do you have your students work on when they finish early in math?   {Be sure to leave me your email!}

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mentor Text Linky {Language Arts} The Tiger Rising

I'm linking up with Amanda and Stacia for their Mentor Text Linky Party!  This week, the subject is language arts and I'm going to share one of my favorite favorite favorite books with you: The Tiger Rising!

If you haven't read it, The Tiger Rising is about a boy named Rob who finds a tiger in the woods behind the motel he calls home.  He then meets a girl who is new to town (Sistine) and feels compelled to tell her about the tiger.  She tries to convince him to let the tiger go and, as luck would have it, the keys to the cage are presented to Rob.  I won't ruin the end for you, but your students will have some very lively discussion about what Rob and Sistine should do and about how the author chooses to end the book.
I use this text to introduce symbolism to my students.  There are pretty heavy, and somewhat obvious, symbols used throughout the book.  My students love talking about "the cage" and Rob's suitcase.  In the text, the cage is an important image and students can discuss the characters who feel trapped in the story.  Rob's suitcase is an imaginary place where keeps his feelings and "not-thoughts" tucked away.  

Here is an organizer I used with my class to keep track of the symbols that popped up throughout the novel.  Click HERE to grab it!

 There's SO much you can do with this book.  It's great for inference, character analysis, simile and personification!  I'm working on editing the reading response sheets I used with my class and compiling all of the mini lessons we did so I can share them.  Hopefully I'll be done before I'm ready to read it to my next class!

Update: I'm done!  I just finished compiling the unit and I'm SO proud of it! The Tiger Rising Unit and Novel Study on TpT

This is an 83 page product filled with resources to help you teach the novel The Tiger Rising.

Included in The Tiger Rising Novel Study, you will find:
- Chapter by chapter notes for the teacher about the characters, symbolism, examples of literary technique and possible extension activities
- Comprehension questions for each chapter. 
- Quoting text mini lessons and text based evidence transitional phrases
- Vocabulary for each chapter, a graphic organizer for finding word meaning in context and a sheet for writing definitions and meaningful sentences.  I've also included cute, themed word cards for your to use on your word wall!
- Symbolism poster and graphic organizer
- Compare/Contrast mini lesson support; many of the prompts require the students to compare and contrast, so I've included posters for this topic.
- Reading Response Questions: these questions are more indepth and promote higher order thinking than basic comprehension questions.  There are 18 pages of questions with space for student responses.
-Character analysis graphic organizers: one organizer for each of the main and supporting characters in the text.  Students will use the character's words and deeds to support a trait chosen.
-Figurative language mini lesson resources to help you teach author's craft
- Fact and opinion sort 

Have you read The Tiger Rising with your class?  What did they think?