Saturday, May 25, 2013

Our Next Read Aloud....

Read aloud is a highlight of my day every day.  I'd even be willing to guess that it's a favorite for most of my students as well.  Although the schedule says 25 minutes, I often stretch our reading time a little longer because it's so hard to put down a good book!  We just finished Wonder, well ahead of schedule because my students were so engaged by the story telling.  Even though it's sad to finish a great book, they immediately wanted to know what's next :-)  And this comes from a group of fairly reluctant readers!  It makes me so happy to earn their trust when it comes to book choices!  Most of my students don't spend precious minutes searching the library for their next independent book.  Instead, they come to me for recommendations.  It really reaffirms my belief that when it comes to great lessons in literacy, it's all about the book.

With only a few weeks of school left, we probably only have time for one more book.  And my readers will be leaving our school to head off to middle school, so I wanted to give them a few ways they can continue to find great books this summer, even if they aren't a part of a reading family.

First, I opened our browser to my favorite site on the Internet....a little site called  Heard of it?  ;-)  Then I searched Wonder by RJ Palacio because I already knew I liked that book.  I showed them how you can scroll down and great book recommendations from other readers.  We read through a few of the negative reviews about Wonder and did some think pair share about the perspectives offered.
Side note: I think if anyone has a graduate this year, a Kindle is really the gift to give.  I've always been a reader, but I read SO much more now that I can purchase books right from my couch!  And I think the new Kindle has a timer that shuts off games and video after a preselected amount of time....genius! 

Since I have a guided reading group that is working through The One and Only Ivan, I told the students we would either read Out of My Mind or Because of Mr. Terupt.  I'd just finished both of them, and I'm pretty sure they'd like either.

I gave the kids some of the info from amazon, such as the number of pages, the age range and the book blurb. 
I really love what I saw.  My students were reading together and making predictions about the book based on the blurb and on the cover.  They wrote out a few questions for me, some of which I answered (such as questions about theme) and some of which I wouldn't (such as "What was the accident in Because of Mr. Terupt?")  One student asked which book I thought was most like Wonder because that would be his choice.  This was the first time I've ever relinquished control of our read aloud book to the class and I'm so happy with how serious they were about making the right choice!

After they read the blurbs and talked at their tables, I answered some of their questions and then handed out a ballot.
Most students made their choices quickly but quite a few really struggled!

So what did they choose?  The winner was.....

It was a landslide!  4 votes for Because of Mr. Terupt and 18 votes for Out of My Mind.  I'll put a copy or two of Because of Mr. Terupt in our library for those kiddos who really wanted to read that book :-) 

So tell you give your students a choice in book selections? What's your current read aloud??

Happy Memorial Day, especially to those awesome military families!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Responding to Reading

I've been a busy lady.  I'm sorry about the lack of blog updates and blog commenting (mainly the blog commenting though.  I feel bad reading a post and not commenting!).  I have a MESS of deadlines coming up...two big ones on Friday, then another big one on Thursday and then I should be in the clear for quite a while!

If you are here because of Joy In the Journey's 200 Follower Giveaway, thank you!  If you didn't know, Joy in the Journey has a big giveaway going on right now!
There are lots of great prizes for K-6, but the giveaway is has TWO categories for 3-6!  Yay, upper grades!  You'll find my Spring Themed Math Centers in the 3-6 category :-)  {This is Common Core Aligned for Grade 5}

Today I'm linking up with Ideas by Jivey for Workshop Wednesday!  I love Workshop many great blog posts to read!  This week's topic is responding to reading.

Like many workshop teachers, I give my students stickies to leave "tracks" in their reading.  We use sticky notes together while we read and then I expect them to practice what I've taught in their independent reading.

I have students keep their stickies in their reading response notebook.  Most students are pretty good about keeping the stickies nicely organized with the title of the book at the top of the page.
In guided reading, I've started having students write their responses in a booklet with comprehension and higher order thinking questions printed out for them.  I was noticing that my kids had a difficult time holding on to their response question while reading and often my conference with a student was being interrupted by a student who forgot the question.  These little booklets are also a matter of practicality: I can just quickly glance at the booklet to assess their comprehension before we begin our discussion.

Finally, I've blogged about these bookmarks before, but I updated them a little for independent reading.  I started using these bookmarks to help my literature circles move away from using role sheets.  They transitioned to bookmarks to keep them organized and focused and now, I'm SO proud to say, they bring their own notes to the literature circle! 

The boxes will hold the student's sticky notes perfectly!  Grab the independent reading bookmarks HERE!

That's it for me! Be sure to link up with Jivey to share how you have your students respond to reading!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Math Manipulatives

I'm linking up with Ideas by Jivey for another addition of Workshop Wednesday, but I have no pictures to share.  :sad face:

This week's topic is: Math Manipulatives.  I just bought a big box of Popsicle sticks for our next math topic, classifying plane figures.  In this topic, we will be working with different polygons to understand that all of the properties of a category also belong to all members of the subcategories and classifying polygons.  While I was perusing my teacher's guide, I noticed the lessons assume the students already know a lot about polygons and angles, but I'm not confident that is the case.  We have spent most of the year working on decimals, fractions and volume, so it has been a long time since the students have worked with polygons.

I didn't think reviewing basic shapes would be very fun so I planned a quick activity to keep them engaged while they review.  Grab it HERE (fixed!)

I used this activity as finished early work for my fast finishers today, but we will work again tomorrow to review the basics of geometry.  I'm also planning to use Popsicles to teach the students how to classify angles!

How do you use manipulatives in your classroom? Be sure to link up with Jivey!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Putting My Room Back Together

During testing season, my room is pretty bare.

No me gusta.

We have to take everything down that could possibly help our students on the test and that means I pretty much panic and take everything down!

Even though the school year is winding down, I just can't live in a bare room!  Here are some pictures of some areas I've been working on brightening up!
The birthday display isn't new, but I fixed the border and changed the other display to "Look What We're Learning!"
 Math Wall!  Updated with new topics....finally!

Bulletin Boards - and a little view of our pinterest inspired cherry blossom paintings
Brightened up Word Wall and another view of our cherry blossoms
Reading Strategies

This probably seems silly if you are getting ready to pack your classroom up soon, but it makes me happy to walk into a vibrant room!

What's your favorite spot in your classroom right now?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Writing Recipe Poems for Mother's Day

I've tried writing recipe poems every year with every one of my classes.  Each year, I've had the same problem: students who are unfamiliar with how recipes are written do not have the vocabulary necessary to craft the poem!

This year, I decided to try something new.  I wanted my students to write sweet poems for their mothers!  I provided my {some of my} students with words you would find in a recipe: saute, mix, chop, dice, fry, grill, etc.  I also gave them common kitchen measurements.  And for my most struggling students, I gave them adjectives they might use to describe their mothers. 

With the assistance of a dictionary (hey, I'm not doing all of their work!), students filled in their brainstorm sheet with great words such as poise, charm and faith.  SO much better than explaining for the hundredth time that someone who is caring is not careful!

I modeled a poem for the students and helped them find the pattern of kitchen verb + measurement + adjective to create their poems.

Students published on recipe themed paper with cute line art from Scrappin Doodles!  Tomorrow we will wrap the recipe and a oven mitt, kitchen towel or pot holder!  (Thank you, Dollar Tree!)
You can check out the product in my TpT store.  There are lots of different options for the publishing paper - wide rule, primary lines and "college" rule.  There are also boy and girl versions of the paper. There are also blank papers if you have students who want to write a Happy Grandmother's Day Poem or a Father's Day Recipe Poem!

What, if anything, are you doing to celebrate Mother's Day with your students?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tried It Tuesday: Wonder-board and What's In My Cart!

So many bloggers are sharing all of their great ideas about RJ Palacio's book Wonder!  I love reading different blog posts and seeing amazing displays for extending kids' thinking about the book!  For this "episode" of Fourth Grade Flipper's Tried It Tuesday, I'm going to share how I used Fourth Grade Studio's Wonderboard in my classroom!

In her blog post, Meg shared a picture of her Wonderboard and said that she encouraged her students to write "a reaction, a theory, an explanation or some other thought of significance" on the board.  I love this because although I give my students prompts so they can respond to literature, I'm worried that I give too MANY prompts and they don't have enough opportunity to listen to their readers voices.  I have about 7 readers who are below beginning fifth grade reading level and I'm not convinced they actually have readers voices in their head, so by having other students write out their ideas, they can read the stickies to find out what their peers think about!
Here is the beginning of our Wonderboard.  There are actually several more stickies on there now, but I forgot to snap another pic before leaving today.

One sticky says: "Why people have to treat him like that. He's a {regular} kid with a bad face.  I know the other kids {have} problems too. Everyone has problems. Trust me if I knew August He would be my besttttt friend." My thoughts: Way to display compassion and empathy!
Another sticky says: "Why did Jack say that {in front} of the boys? Why {is} he {bummed} about August being mad at him?  My thoughts:  great question for writing and conversation!  We actually used this question as a quick write prompt. I asked the students why they thought Jack betrayed August and which
Jack did they believe, the Jack who said he wasn't really friends with August or the Jack who asked Summer why August was mad at him?

If you are teaching Wonder, you might want to take a look at my Wonder Comprehension Questions Booklet on TPT.

I use this booklet with my fifth grade students during read aloud to monitor comprehension. The questions range in complexity from basic comprehension focused on major plot points and characters to higher order thinking questions requiring longer responses. This product can be used for independent reading, read aloud or literature circles. The questions are not specifically aligned to Common Core standards, but many questions as students to cite specific text based evidence and most questions are text dependent. It would be helpful for students to have their own copy of the text in order to answer the questions.

I'm also linking up with Fifth in the Middle to share What's In My Cart!  Truthfully, I'm not ready to check out yet...but here are the definites:

From the top left, What's My Operation Task Cards by Teaching with A Mountain View.  I love her products!  We've done her fraction packet, multiplying decimals and I have the operating decimals task cards as well.  Right now, we are working through her FREE Titanic Math Pages!

Prefix Parlor by Teaching with a Touch of Twang. I'm ALWAYS drawing a blank when it comes to word work and word study.  And with the sale, this is only $1.60!

Fluency Bootcamp by MsJordanReads.  We need this like whoa.  I know the year is winding down for most of you, but we still have several weeks left!

Build a BETTER sentence by Lovin Lit.  We've been working on stretching our sentences for a while, but I think it would be great to try it a new way!  Also, Lovin Lit is having a big giveaway that starts tomorrow:
I donated my Language Arts Activities for A Day's Work by Eve Bunting :-)
Common Core Weekly Reading Homework Review {Set 1:Informational Text} by Jennifer Findley I probably won't use this until next year, but I love getting a peek into how other teachers structure their reading homework! 
So be sure to link up with Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried It Tuesday and Fifth in the Middle for What's In Your Cart!  And don't forget code TAD13 when you check out for an additional 10% off your order!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

TpT Teacher Appreciation Sale!

I'm sure you've heard by now that TpT is having a huge sale this week!  I'm joining in on the fun and putting my entire store on sale for 20% off.  Use code TAD13 for an additional 10% off and you'll get 28% off your entire order.  Don't you love how percents work?!

Here are some items you might want to check out:

My newest products: The Tiger Rising Novel Study
My Mother's Day (or any day!) Recipe Poem Package

A Reading Response Booklet for Schooled by Gordon Korman - questions for each chapter in a cute booklet format!
Fifth Grade Math Task Card Bundle - all my task cards plus all the task cards I ever add to my store!  Right now, there the set is mainly fractions, but it will grow!
Mark your calendars!

Thursday, May 2, 2013


I'm linking up with Farley for Currently!

Listening: Right now, my kids are playing instead of eating.  Lovely, right? Some how toys always end up at the dinner table and it drives me bananas!  They both ate half a meatball and then said they were full.  I wish I could be full on half a meatball!

Loving: Hawaiian Keurig Cups!  They make the house smell so nice and they have a slight nutty flavor to them!  We just got two more big boxes of Hawaiian k-cups and two big boxes of Tree Hugger k-cups.  I love a bold coffee for the morning.

Thinking:  We are wrapping up our Mexico Study with a mini fiesta for Cinco de Mayo tomorrow and I've convinced myself that I'll be able to make guacamole with the class.  It's easy enough, right?
Brochures all colored and ready for the bulletin board!  Check out my Cinco de Mayo brochure project on TpT.

Wanting: More patience.  Or more sleep.  Or fewer responsibilities.  All three would be AWESOME!  I'm updating all FIVE of my bulletin boards and starting all of the end of year assessment and record keeping.  I could definitely use a clone right about now!

Needing: To reorganize my closet.  It seems like spring is finally here, although the mornings are still quite chilly.  Still, I'd rather wear seven layers than put a winter coat on!  I need to go through and change my closet over to warmer clothes.  And I need to purge with a heavy hand.  I may or may not still have some maternity clothes lurking in my dresser.

Summer Bucket List:
1.) Beach - Although the beaches near me were really hurt by Sandy, the news keeps saying they will be open for Memorial Day!  I can't wait!
2.) Pool - My oldest is going to do swimming lessons this year!  And I can't wait to get back to swimming laps in an outdoor pool!
3.) Marathon Training - I'm officially registered for the NYC Marathon and I will start training in mid-July.  This will be my second marathon and I'm kind of looking forward to the training and definitely looking forward to racing!

What are you up to this month!  Be sure to link up with Farley!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Favorite Reading Group Book

I'm linking up with Ideas by Jivey for Workshop Wednesday!  This week's topic: favorite reading group book.

My favorite reading group book is Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt.  If you've never read it, it's the story of a girl named Winnie who stumbles upon a boy and a spring in her woods.  She is kidnapped by the boy, his brother and their mother who try to convince Winnie that the spring has the power to stop time for who ever drinks it.  The family tells her that they stopped aging eighty years ago when they drank the water and they need her to help them keep their secret.

I read this book for the first time when I was in sixth grade.  I remember loving the scene with Winnie sitting in the row boat with Angus Tuck as he tried to explain to her why he wishes he could get back on the wheel of life, even if it means his eventual death.
Everything's a wheel, turning and turning, never stopping. The frogs is part of it, and the bugs, and the fish, and the wood thush, too. And people. But never the same ones. Always coming in new, always growing and changing, and always moving on. That's the way it's suppose to be. That's the way it is. If we didn't move it out ourself, it would stay here forever, trying to get loose, but stuck. That's what us Tucks are, Winnie.
I've shared this book with classes as a read aloud for many years, but this was the first year I decided to read it with a reading group.  For read aloud, it prompted great discussion and debate amongst the class about immortality and what we wanted Winnie to do.  I think I really preferred this book as a reading group book because I got to see how my students changed their opinions over time as they read.  When you hear 20 something opinions, it's very hard to keep individual opinions straight, but when you are reading with just 5 students, it's much easier to remember how each student feels and how their opinions change.
 Prereading homework
As a reading group book, it also gives students the space to mull over Winnie's feelings for Jesse.  For many of my students, especially those that read far below their grade level, it's the first time they've encountered a hint of romance in their books!

The book is so rich and so beautifully written that the movie version is just such a disappointment. I let my students watch it, although there is a little bit of kissing in it, but it's just not good movie!  It doesn't do the story justice and there are extra parts added in for no good reason.

Glencoe offers a great (and FREE!) study guide for the book.  Click here for the pdf.

What is your favorite reading group book? Be sure to link up with Ideas by Jivey to share!