Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sarah, Plain and Tall

This week, we finished reading Sarah, Plain and Tall.  I haven't taught this book in so many years, but I needed a quality novel that I could finish before we were ready to launch ReadyGen (btw, it's looking like Monday will be the big day).  I used this novel as a vehicle for teaching questioning.  I'm so pleased with the questions my students wrote while reading this book!  Take a look....

Sloppy easel alert!

I began the novel with a lesson on questioning using the cover.
I taught my kiddos that we ask questions to gather more information about the book.  After the first chapter, I asked the kids to partner up (I've been u
sing the phrase "point your shoulders at someone" to get them to face their partners) to ask questions about the events and description so far.  As you can imagine, they had a lot of questions about "hiring" a wife!

In the next lesson, I stopped mid-chapter, asked them to point their shoulders to a partner and write their questions on a sticky note.  Nearly all of their questions were on point!  I made a big fuss about their questions and asked them to respond to the most frequently asked question: will Sarah stay?  Here are a few of their responses:

And, my favorite one....
(Isn't it so exciting to start the year impressed with student work? I am thrilled to work with this amazing reader and thinker!)

After  two more days of practicing writing thick questions focused on text events, I asked my kiddos to practice writing questions for their independent reading books.

We also did a quick lesson on thick questions versus thin questions, but I forgot to snap a pic of the anchor chart.  

And today, one of my new friends came up to me to show me the question he wrote on a sticky at home!  (Why why why didn't I snap a pic!?!?!)

Next, we will do some work with writing long off of our sticky notes!

Tell me, do you have a favorite questioning lesson?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Peek at My Week Linky

Hi, friends :-)

I'm linking up with Mrs.Laffins Laughings again to share what we have going on in our room this week!

Our new literacy program, ReadyGen, has still not arrived.  I have student workbooks and a set of books for unit four (which is the LAST unit of the year).  I do not have a teacher's guide, other than what I downloaded onto my iPad, or a class set of novels for the shared reading.  I'll leave my opinion about this fiasco out of it and focus on the most beautiful part: I'm reading the books *I* want to read to my class.  We are going to finish up Sarah, Plain and Tall and begin Skylark.  They are loving Sarah, Plain and Tall and we've done some great work on questioning this week!  I hope to share some of our work with you later this week :-)

On Tuesday, I'll launch guided reading.  Even if we had a program, I'd still have to plan for guided reading, which is fine by me, since I LOVE guided reading!  I created five groups based on running records data and we are reading: Tuck Everlasting (that will be two groups), The Tiger Rising, Schooled and The Witches.  I am super excited!

I saved my self some planning time this week by "shopping" in my own TpT store!  I made sticky note comprehension books for all of these titles (except The Witches ) last that saved me quite a bit of prep work!

Guess I'll be spending tonight folding the booklets!

If you want to take a peek at the booklets, here are the links: The Tiger Rising, Schooled, and Tuck Everlasting.
 I forgot my school calendar, but I think Wednesday is goal setting day.  School-wide, we set aside time to confer with the students about their data and set goals.  Of course, we ask students to set SMART goals, so we will do a little sorting activity to get warmed up. I'll hand out goals such as "I want to improve my handwriting" and goals such as "I plan to read three books by Kate DiCamillo by October 31st" and have the kiddos sort them into specific/measurable and nonspecific/non measurable.
 On Thursday, we are going to extend the work we began with student created rubrics by offering our classmates feedback from the rubric for their paragraph of the week.  I use Stephanie's  (from Teaching in Room 6) amaaaaaazing Paragraph of the Week packet.  We will finish our paragraph on Monday, work on rubrics on Tuesday (take a break Wednesday for goal setting) and then offer feedback to our classmates on Thursday.  I plan to play a game of musical chairs so students read a variety of papers.  I'll give them time to read four or five paragraphs before they return to their seats to read the feedback they've received.  Then they will sort their feedback into helpful and unhelpful feedback.  {This lesson idea is not my original idea.  I read it on someone's blog, but I can't remember which someone.  If you know, please tell me!}
Friday is RTI day in math and last week I saw my class really struggle with 5.NBT.A.1: "Recognize that in a multi-digit number, a digit in one place represents 10 times as much as it represents in the place to its right and 1/10 of what it represents in the place to its left."  They understood the idea, but when I asked them to for the number that is ten times 0.4 or 1/10th of 1, I got quite a lot of blank stares.  As I was teaching the lesson, I found myself wishing I had number tiles for the kids to manipulate, similar to how you might teach  making words with letter tiles.  So I made this little place value mat and number cards to use during RTI.  You can grab the place value mat and number tiles HERE.

There are three pages of number tiles, so you can call out numbers and have students build them as well.  For my lesson, students will practice moving the digit to the left (to multiply by ten) and to the right (to divide by ten) and then they will fill in empty spaces with zeroes.

That's it for now!  Have a great day of watching football and enjoying some gorgeous fall weather!  Oh, and Dexter!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Grouping Students (and a completely unrelated freebie)

I'm linking up with Jivey today to share how I group my students for math workshop :-)

There are several options for grouping students when it comes to Math Workshop:

1.) Homogeneous grouping:  Keep students with similar ability levels together.  You might group students based on a pretest or beginning of year test or data from the previous school year. While you will probably change the groups throughout the year, you are still keeping students together based on their ability.  This type of grouping worked best for me when I did guided math.

2.)  Heterogeneous grouping:  This is the type of grouping I use this year.  I gave a pretest on Monday and then introduced groups on Tuesday for our first official lesson.  I took the students with the lowest six scores and created my group.  Then I took the highest four scores and assigned those students as table leaders.  Using the students who were left, I mixed them up and thought about their personalities and work habits as I created the groups.

Now in each group, except for mine, I have one student with a high score and a mix of students with different abilities.  When we move into groups, I remind the students at the other tables that they direct all of their questions to the table leader (the highest scoring student) before they ask me.  This leaves me free to focus my energy on the students who need the most assistance.

At the end of the topic, I use the data from the next test and pretest to create the new groups.  To be completely open, I've found that the students who are in my group are usually in my group for the entire year.  I'll have visitors to my group and I'll have graduates, but reflecting on the year as a whole, it's pretty much the same group all year.

I love this means of grouping my kiddos because it allows me to give the most attention to the students who need it.  Occasionally, I'll have students who need to visit my group for a few minutes of reteaching and I let them sit on the outskirts of my group until they feel confident to go off on their own.  I also love it because it helps foster leadership skills in the students who serve as table leader.

On an unrelated note, tomorrow is Talk Like a Pirate Day!  I had no idea this was a thing until I reader Hunter's Tales from Teaching's Peek at My Week Post!   I made this little pirate themed math practice for my kids that are having difficulty understanding the concept of division and the connection to multiplication.  It's probably third grade level, but upper elementary teachers might find it useful for click HERE to grab it.

I really do hope this was clear. I sat in a tough of traffic tonight and I'm SO tired.  But I have to stay awake because it's Meet the Teacher Night at my son's school!  I'm so excited to meet her and see the classroom!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Peek at My Week Linky

It's SO quiet in my house right now. My little girl is napping, my husband and son are at the grocery store.  And I'm printing off my lesson plans and getting organized for the week!

Here's what's up in our classroom this week:
 On Monday, I'm going to begin center rotations in literacy.  We will begin with expectations (of course!).  I'll work with the class to create a T-chart showing their job and my job.

I made four easy to use center activities to help the kids build their independence.  You can grab the editing station for free at my TpT store.  It's eight cards with a variety of errors (missing punctuation, capitalization, apostrophes; no spelling errors), a recording sheet and an answer sheet.  I paste the cover on a manilla envelope and place all of the center materials inside.  On the back, I'll clip a sign in sheet to keep track of the students' work.

 On Tuesday, we will (finally!) begin our math program.  I feel like we've already been in school for weeks, rather than just 5 days!  We begin with Topic 1: Place Value.
Our literacy program, ReadyGen, isn't quite so, um, we will be reading Sarah, Plain and Tall.  I didn't want to launch into a long novel, with the hopes that our materials will arrive this week.   I haven't read this book to a class in years, so I really enjoyed rereading it this weekend :-)
 Not really planning related, but this Thursday is our Open House.  So I'll be spending lots of time perfecting my room this week! Hopefully I'll actually post some pictures of my classroom by next weekend!
Ah, Friday!  We are doing RTI in math every Friday, which I think is an awesome idea.  I anticipate working on task cards with small groups.  I'll be using Place Value Task Cards with my kiddos.

Have a great week, all!

Be sure to link up with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Spark Student Motivation Linkup!

Hi all!  I'm linking up with Head Over Heels for Teaching for Spark Student Motivation Saturdays to share my current classroom management strategy.

Last year, I made my management strategy WAY too complicated.  I had a table system, a whole class system and an individual system.  It was bananas.  And way too much for me to handle. To be honest, I was too into Pinterest and what other people were doing.  So I had a behavior chart, I did warm fuzzies and brownie points.

Midway through the year, I felt like the rewards were too common and had no meaning. I felt as though I was just bribing the kids to do things they were SUPPOSED to do.  Okay, if you get along in your groups and stay on task, then you can get a candy/pencil/eraser/whatever.  Um, no.  I still motivated my students with authentic praise, but the rewards aspect was out of control.

This summer, I resolved to do less.  I read up on Whole Brain Teaching and probably googled every conceivable combination of "Whole Brain Teaching Upper Grades" and "Whole Brain Teaching Fifth Grade."  I read the book and blogs and decided to go with a new strategy this year.  I kept the clip chart and introduced a daily Behavior Report for all students.

Recycled Picture Alert!  The clip chart is from Teaching with a Touch of Twang.

Right before dismissal, students write in their level on the behavior report.  I asked for all students to have the first night signed (they were all level 3;-) so the parents would know to look for the report in the future.  It's copied right on the back of their homework log, so they can't forget it.  Students who end the day on level 4 get a little sticker.  After 5 stickers, they will get a newly designed/washi taped clip.

We have had five days of school and I haven't said the word "reward" or the word "consequence" once.  No one has asked "what do we get?"   I'm also using a Scoreboard (created by Teaching with Style).  I told the class they need 400 points to get to the Level 2 Scoreboard.  Each morning we tally their points (and mine).  But none of the kids have asked what they get.  They seem so happy with their one second party when they get their points!  And I've seen really great behavior from some of the kids I was warned about.....

I am sure this won't last for forever, but I am feeling good about the fact that the students are motivated by their desire to be acknowledged rather than a little trinket and I don't have to juggled three (!) management strategies.

How are you keeping your students motivated?  Be sure to link up with Head Over Heels for Teaching!

Also, Erin at Lovin' Lit has a giveaway going for her newest Interactive Notebook Pack!  This one is for writing :-)  Be sure to check it out!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Morning Routines

Over the past few years, I've fallen into a pretty consistent routine each morning I enter my classroom.  I leave to head home when I dismiss my students because I have two little ones waiting for me, so all of my prep work takes place before my students arrive in the morning.

Here's a quick peek into what I do every morning before my students arrive:

This is my first stop.  It's facing my door as you walk in.  I usually plunk down all of my papers: mail, attendance, copies, letters for the kids, bulletins and {MOST IMPORTANT!} my coffee.  I will definitely forget that I put my coffee down here and waste time looking for it later!  I keep my lesson plans here, so I always stop to remind myself what's on tap for the day.

I spend a few minutes writing up my daily objectives to hang up on the "flow of the day" chart. I like the wipe off sentence strips.  Seems like the most "green" option. I also fix the daily schedule.

It's all wrinkly because it isn't on a bulletin board.  All of my walls are magnetic so I can hang paper anywhere.  Sadly, it's been really humid the last few days and it causes the paper to sag :-(

My next stop is the behavior chart (from Teaching with a Touch of Twang).  Anyone who ended the day on level 4 gets a sticker on their clippy.  Five stickers gets the student a new color :-)  I leave the clippies on their desks so they can see the new sticker and put their clips on level 3.  Anyone who ended the day below level 3 will also find their clips on their desk as a little reminder that everyday is a new chance to start over and make better choices!

Just above the clip chart is the homework board.  I change the words and numbers for the writing and math homework and add any reminders for parents.

My last stop is the copy machine for any last minute copies or a stop in my teammates rooms for a quick chat before the bell.

What do you do before your students come in for the morning?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Never Forget

In 2002, I began my teaching career in Brooklyn.  I remember several kindergarten students pointing at the health benefits guide I just received.  "Twin Towers!" they said as they pointed at the book.  I looked at the back and saw the outdated guide had a photo of the skyline on it.  These little ones were four when the towers fell.  And they remembered.

In most of those early years, I never taught an explicit Patriot Day/September 11th lesson.  I didn't need to.  My students remembered.  They knew what happened.  Our classroom conversations were about bravery and the importance of our firefighters and police officers.  We wrote letters to first responders thanking them for keeping us safe.  I tried to answer the "why" questions as best as I could.  I tried to make our classroom a safe space for their questions and their comments.

As the years passed, this day has become more difficult, not easier.  This is my second class that was born after September 11th.  They've heard of the World Trade Center.  They've seen old footage of the towers.  They've heard of Osama bin Laden.  But they don't KNOW.  Not in the way my older classes knew.  So their questions are honest and uncensored.  And hard to answer.  It's not my goal to get them to understand how that one day completely changed this amazing city, but they should know what happened that day.

I let BrainPop do the talking today.  We stopped to talk. They made connections to stories told by their families.  And aunt who worked downtown.  An uncle who is a firefighter.  They talked about seeing the Freedom Tower.

We remember.  Never forget.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

In My Planbook: A Peek at My Week Linky

Hi everyone!  Happy Sunday!  (Or is it Happy Sunday?)
Tomorrow is my first day with students!  I'm pretty excited to get this party started!  I feel like I've been planning for this for, well, an entire I can't wait to get back in front of a class!

Here's what's in my planbook for this week:

We'll be reading my FAVORITE first day of school book: Appelemando's Dreams.

Pic Credit: Amazon
I love love love this book. We use it as a jumping off point for building trust and understanding the rules in a community.  Rules and routines are the name of the game for Monday.

We will work on some all about me posters from Scholastic and a Math About Me activity from Runde's Room.

 On Tuesday, we will be reading The Day of Ahmed's Secret.  This book never goes over the way I want it to, but I keep trying.  The kids are never impressed by the secret Ahmed has (that he can write his name).  So this year, I am going to try a compare/contrast activity to help the kids understand why it's so great that Ahmed can write his name.  You can grab the Interactive Notebook Foldable Here.  (Credit to Erin at Lovin' Lit for the template!)

Pic Credit: Amazon

In math, I'm going to introduce Math Centers and begin our Beginning of Year Inventory Test.  The test is 80 items long, so I'm going to have the class work on it over the course of 4 days.

My extended day group (that's a group of ten students who stay 50  minutes after school twice per week for intervention and tutoring) will start reading Because of Winn Dixie.  I'm more than halfway through creating response booklets for them and I bought a copy for each kiddo on amazon.  I love this book, so working on this project has been really fun!

from my Instagram ;-) 

 On Wednesday, I'm looking forward to doing some rubric work with my class.  Teaching in High Heels had a great lesson she shared last school year about a rubric for making your bed. I kept pondering this lesson since then and decided to do it this year using my 4 year old's bed as a visual.  He was delighted that I was 1) taking pictures of his bed and 2.) making his bed look so neat!

I'll be sure to share the pictures and the blank rubric after we do the lesson!

In reading workshop, I'm going to introduce sticky mats to my kiddos. We will do an easy one to get started: making predictions.  You can grab the prediction page here or check out the full product here.  {The full product is editable, but the file on Google drive is just a pdf.}  The students will use a 1.5x2 sticky for the small box and 3x3 stickies for the larger boxes.

 On Thursday we will keep going with our rubrics.  This time, we will apply the rubric to an image of a bed so we can offer feedback to the bed maker about their beds.  Using rubrics to offer feedback to peers is a big focus in our school, but I thought it would be nice to keep it lighthearted and fun.  If time allows, we are also going to create a rubric for a clean desk!
On Friday, we will work on book recommendations to share books we love.  You can grab my form here.  They are pretty basic!  I will model  and then ask each student to make one contribution this month using the half size page.  The book and the form go in the books we love bin in our library.  
We should wrap up our beginning of year math inventory on Friday!  Woohoo!
 I'm teaching art on Fridays, so I think we are going to go over the rules in the art studio and then jump right into color theory!

What's in your plan book this week?  Be sure to link up with Mrs.Laffin's Laughings!