Sunday, February 23, 2014

Keeping Students Happy During Testing Times

This week is filled with testing for my kids.  We have two more pieces of assessment and then we are done...for a little bit any way.  We are also beginning test prep twice a week to get ready for state exams in April, so I want to try and give my students as many breaks as possible during the day to keep them happy.  Here are a few things I've been trying to incorporate:

1.) Brain Breaks - we are using Whole Brain Teaching in our classroom, so when the students win for the day, their reward is a quick brain break.  We've done "skiing," "swimming," "yoga" - anything to get them out of their seats and moving.  For skiing, students stand and then sink into a chair pose, elbows bent and fists at the shoulders.  Students jump from side to side, as though they are skiing downhill.  For yoga, we practice warrior II and warrior III.

2.) Food!  We are allowed to give out treats (are we the only ones left???) and a handful of Jolly Ranchers can be a real motivator when we have to break out the test prep booklets.  I also keep small bags of goldfish in the classroom for the same purpose.   If you are not allowed to give out food, try smelly stickers!  Even the big kids love smelly stickers.  My kids love when I mark their work with Mr. Sketch markers.  It's so funny to see them pick up their books to smell the marker!

3.) "Fun" Practice  - anything that involves coloring feels like less work.  I love Kristine Nannini's Math Centers because they all have color by number practice.  I also found this great page on TpT that they ASKED to take home for homework.  What???  Link: Multiplying Decimals Freebie.
4.) New "toys"  - I bought each of my kiddos a smencil colored pencil (because I didn't read closely and thought I was buying pencils.  D'oh!) to use in their test prep books.  These are ONLY for underlining evidence or for checking their work.  I also plan to make these little answer sticks.  What a great idea to improve student participation!
Credit - this is from One Extra Degree
Do you have great ideas for keeping kids happy during the march towards testing?  Please share!

And check out my FB page for a Facebook Freebie!  I have a complete center for fractions to celebrate St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Math Centers - giveaway!

Hi, friends!

Just a quick note to let you know that I just uploaded a set of 8 math centers for St. Patrick's Day.  There is a focus on basic fraction concepts, but students also practice converting measurements and evaluating expressions according to the order of operations.

You can take a look at the product, on sale now (!) HERE.

If you'd like a chance to win these centers, head over to my Facebook page and leave me a comment!  I'll choose two winners tonight at 9 pm!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Studying Biography with Graphic Organizers (Freebie!)

This year is the first year I really REALLY taught biography.  In the past, I've read biographies with my class, but they've always been quite short or as a quick social studies lesson.  This year, we read Rachel Carson: Pioneer of Ecology and really had the opportunity to dig in deep to a few of the CCSS for Informational Text.

I posted these organizers on TpT.  You can check them out here: Biography Graphic Organizers

You can also grab a page from the set here: Historical Context Organizer

As always, these organizers are on sale since they are brand new!

Have a great Wednesday!  Cross your fingers for buckets and buckets of snow to fall on NYC tomorrow night!  :-D

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mentor Text Linky: Integrating Social Studies into Language Arts

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!  I'm sure lots of you are so excited for this game tonight, but I'm not the biggest football fan in the I'm just looking forward to some wings tonight!
Today I'm linking up with the Collaboration Cuties to share a Must Read Mentor Text.  I've blogged a bit about how our school adopted Pearson's ReadyGen literacy program this year. The BIG downside to this program is that I don't get to choose my own read aloud texts anymore.  The upside is that I've truly enjoyed the majority of texts we've read through this program!

We just finished Unit 2 Module A, which focused on understanding how people respond to injustice and inequality.  Our anchor text was Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. {This text is available through Scholastic Book Clubs this month as well!}  The text is told from the perspective of an older African American woman who is sharing her family's history through pivotal points in American history.  Her grandfather, Pap, was kidnapped in Africa and brought to America as a slave.  The narrator describes Pap's experience as a slave and the reader is able to understand how many African Americans experienced slavery.  The story continues through the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Great Migration, World War I, the Jazz Age, the Great Depression, World War II and the Civil Rights Movement.

This is a powerful text, filled with dialect, figurative language and unmistakable voice.  Our shared reading prompted awesome conversation and excellent questioning from my students.  Even with a very limited understanding of American History, my students were able to build a tremendous amount of knowledge about slavery and the importance of the Civil Rights movement. Our timing helped as well: coincidentally, we concluded the text just before Martin Luther King Day.  To compliment the text, we viewed the full length "I Have a Dream Speech" and the biography channel's mini bio of Martin Luther King, Jr on YouTube.  I also have a small group of students working through I'm Lovin Lit's Martin Luther King Jr Timeline Packet (<- free for a limited time).

This book is amazing for teaching students how to identify the point of view of a narrator.  In her explanation of historic events, the reader hears the opinion of a narrator who has been impacted by her family's experience in America.  The author/illustrator helps the reader imagine life in the past through gorgeous images.  This was a major focus for our discussion of the text.  We analyzed images and made connections to the tone of the text (CCSS RL 5.7).

Image of a Sharecropping Family

Image of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

The text is quite dense, so it isn't a quick read.  We only read one chapter per day because there is so much in the text to discuss.  We read the book in 12 school days.

Here you can grab a copy of an organizer to help your students analyze images in text:
I included some prompts for the organizer on a teacher's page.
 Also, click here to grab a copy of the Choice Boards I made for Black History Month.  My students are working on these at home and will present their projects at the end of the month.  You might notice that I left Martin Luther King, Jr off the list of influential African Americans; this was not an error.  I want my kiddos to branch out a bit and hopefully learn about a new figure or time period this month.

Just a quick note: Some of the reviews on Amazon state that the book is too sad and presents a negative view of America.  I have to disagree.  I didn't find that my students focused on the sadness in the text because our conversations focused on how the people in the text responded to the injustices they experienced (forming the Underground Railroad, fighting to end Jim Crow laws, nonviolent protests, speeches, exercising the right to vote).