Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Year -- a New Sale!!

2013 was such a wonderful year for me, I'm sad to see it go!  I have "met" so many wonderful people through this little blog, which I began back in March.  I am a better teacher, and my students have had better learning experiences, because of the ideas you have all shared with me.  Thank you!!

I'm looking forward to 2014 so I can continue to grow through more collaboration.  There are so many wonderful blogs out there that I haven't even discovered yet.  I'm linking up with Jennifer (great name!) at Simply Kinder for her Teaching Blog Linky Party to meet other teacher bloggers.  Just from looking over the list of those who have already linked up, I see lots of new blogs to explore.  I hope you will check it out!
As a thank you for being a reader of my blog, I am throwing a SALE at my TpT Store!  All of my items are 15% off until Thursday.  Now would be a great time to take a look at my Word Parts We Know program to systematically teach prefix and suffix word parts to your students.  I have had GREAT success with this program and know you will too!  :)
If you are a new reader of my blog, I invite you back on Sundays for my weekly linky party, A Peek at My Week.  Link up to share your plans for the upcoming week, either at school or at home.  Lots of wonderful ideas are shared here and I have been known to change my lesson plans on Sunday nights after discovering something new from a fellow blogger that I just HAVE to try!  :)
Wishing you and your a blessed and joyous new year!  See you in 2014!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

One Word for the New Year

As 2013 winds down to a close and we begin to look ahead to 2014, so many of us are thinking about our resolutions for the new year.  For me personally, making a resolution has never really worked well.  Sure, I've made lots of resolutions for new years -- lose weight, eat healthy, be more peaceful, watch less TV -- but like the 63% of people who ditch their resolution after January 15th (my research, not official data), I usually don't see them come to fruition.

So I have decided that this year, I am not going to make any resolutions for the new year. (Gasp!)

I have been reading the awesome book, One Word that Will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon.  Instead of making resolutions, I am going to choose One Word to guide me and all I do this year.
My Word?

I consider myself a fairly reflective person.  I spend a lot of time thinking about my life and my choices and how I can make them better.  But I don't always take the next step and do something about it.  That's why I'm choosing the word, forward, to guide me this year.  It can be my mantra in times of doubt, inaction, confusion and goal setting.  When I don't know what to do, I can remember my word as it urges me to take action.

I have decided that I am also going to do a One Word Project with my 4th graders in writing class when we get back next week.  I will ask them to each choose a word, write it creatively on a 9 x 14" paper, then write a brief paragraph about why they chose their word.  We will hang them in the hallway as a reminder of the words we have chosen and to inspire others. (Pictures to come soon!)

I put together this video to show the students some words they could consider using.
What do you think about choosing only one word to guide your new year? What word would you chose?  How could you use the One Word Project in your classroom?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

To learn how others are choosing and using their one word, visit 4th Grade Frolics.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Peek at My Week -- Vacation Edition! {12-22-13}

Welcome to Winter Break and another edition of A Peek at My Week, the weekly linky party where you can share your plans for your upcoming week.
Santa brought us an early Christmas present this year in the form of an ice storm -- and school was cancelled on Friday, our last day before break!  It was great to begin break a day early, but because this was unexpected, there are many things I left at school that I will need to go in and get sometime this week.

The ice here has been terrible and last night, the snow arrived.  Today, we are supposed to go up to the in-laws to celebrate Christmas, but I'm afraid that the 2 hour trip would turn into a 4+ hour trip so we are seriously considering going.

I am also very excited to spend some time with these guys this week....my niece and nephew from Dallas are here until Christmas.  They moved this past summer and I have missed them so much!
Also on my agenda this week is catching up on lots of reading.  I love to get up early in the morning (before any other distractions get out of bed -- aka my kids) and read.  I have started reading a new book, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, because I saw it recommended as one of Amazon's Top Picks of the Year.  So far, it's pretty good!
Product Details
I also hope to get some work done on a new product for my TpT Store called "Writing of the Week."  I have found that with my group of writers this year, they need very explicit instruction in how to put together a writing project.  This new product will feature step-by-step instructions as they complete one part a day, from brainstorming, grouping ideas, writing an introduction and conclusion and finally, publishing.  You can get a sneak peek and download the first lesson here.  (I would LOVE your feedback as I move forward with this product!!)
I wish you a blessed and peaceful week!  Merry Christmas to you and yours!!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Peek at My Week {12-15-13}

Here we are in the final stretch.  One more week, friends....We can do this!!  Welcome to A Peek at My Week, a place to link up to share what you've got planned for the upcoming week.

I don't know about your students, but mine have been rather rambunctious this past week.
With the upcoming break from school and a visit from you-know-who, keeping the kiddos motivated and on-task will be quite the challenge.

One thing we will continue to work on this week is our fluency using "'Twas the Night Before Christmas'."  I assigned students lines to read and every day, then they partner read the entire poem with a classmate.  Their fluency has improved dramatically.  Later this week, we will play "I Have Who Has" of lines of the poem using this fun activity from Mr. Hughes.
'Twas the Night Before Christmas- I Have Who Has {Freebie}
We will perform the poem for our kindergarten buddies at a buddy party on Wednesday.

Also this week, my writing students will be writing their own family holiday newsletter.  Similar to newsletters that many of us get in Christmas cards from friends and relatives, I am going to have my students think of the three most memorable events from their past year and put together a one-page newsletter. 

How about you?  What are you doing this week to stay sane?  :)

As a side note, there WILL be A Peek at My Week next week, even though it is winter break.  I thought we could share what we are doing over break to help refresh and rejuvenate ourselves.

Wishing you a great week! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fun (and Funny) Seasonal How-To Writing

Now that it is the last couple of weeks before the much anticipated Winter Break, I can definitely see that the kids are tired.  It has been a long fall, and we are all looking forward to two weeks off soon. So this is the time when we, the teachers, have to bring out the fireworks in our lesson planning to find creative ways to snag the depleting attention of our students to keep them engaged with learning for at least a few more days.

One activity I have done for the past three years in writing with great success is how-to writing with drawing snowmen. This activity can be spread over three or four days and would make a great way to end your last few days before break.

Day 1:  Pass out paper and ask students to draw a snowman.  They should use crayons, markers, or colored pencils to decorate it, but no other art supplies.

Day 2:  Hand back the students' drawings to the original artist.  Tell students that they now need to write directions on how to draw the exact same snowman in a how-to writing piece.  This is a good time to discuss transition words and using specific details to describe their snowman well.  Tell students that tomorrow, you will distribute the directions randomly around the room and another student will draw the snowman described on their how-to paper.

Day 3:  Randomly distribute the how-to directions and a new sheet of blank paper.  The students are to read and follow the directions as written to try to recreate the snowman drawing.

Day 4:  Gather together to share the "before" and "after" pictures.  It is really funny to see some of the recreations--and leads to a great discussion about adding specific details to writing.

When you think about it, one of the best ways to make meaning of our reading is to VISUALIZE it and if we aren't including enough SPECIFIC detail in our writing, our reader may be confused.  Writers need to remember this.  As you do the show and share, students will quickly see that those who used specific details had the two drawings that looked pretty similar.

Here are two samples of our final product.  Look at the amount of writing in the middle and how that compares to how well the two drawings match.  Hmmmm....

When I finish this activity, I have students write a brief reflection on what they did well and what they need to change for next time when writing.

If you're looking for a fun writing activity to wrap up your week before vacation, I hope you will give it a try!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Monday Made It -- Let it Snow!!

It has been a snowy day here in southeastern Wisconsin!  I guess you could say that winter has arrived.  It actually was kind of nice -- I could sit inside and watch the beautiful snow fall outside with a nice mug of cocoa and I didn't have to go anywhere.  Pure heaven!  My Puggle, Rosie, also enjoyed watching the snow fall.

The snowy day also gave me some time to finish up some crafting projects for this month's Monday Made It with 4th Grade Frolics.
Most of my creative energy this past month has gone into getting my home ready for Christmas.  I made some wreaths to hang on the doors and got out a cute table runner for the kitchen table.

My mom and I were at a craft fair last weekend and she mentioned that there were not a lot of holiday decorations in more modern colors.  Her tree and house are decorated in purples and turquoise so I made her this wreath.  She was very happy!  :)
I also made my annual batch of Peanut Brittle -- my husband's favorite!  I found a new recipe this year that uses the microwave rather than an hour on the stove top.  It is delicious and so easy that I will probably make a few more batches.  (Peanut brittle never lasts long in our house! :)  You can find the recipe here.
I'm looking forward to catching up on other "Made Its" at 4th Grade Frolics!  Have a great week!!

Since I am posting this on Sunday and if you are looking to link up with my weekly linky party, A Peek at My Week, just scroll down to the next post and link up!  (I'm just trying to stay ahead of the game during this crazy time of year. :)

A Peek at My Week {12-08-13} & Pen Pals Needed

Welcome to another edition of A Peek at My Week, my weekly linky party where you can share some highlights of your upcoming week!  I am glad you are here!!
Only two weeks left until Winter Break and so much to do!!!  I am so proud of my kiddos who are hanging in there and not getting all crazy for the upcoming break!!

One of the highlights of my upcoming week is some professional development I will be doing on Thursday to spotlight my monthly Writing PD sessions that I will be presenting to interested staff.  Once a month, another teacher and myself will present on a writing topic either before school or after school for an hour.

Our topics are:
         January:  Getting Started with Writing Workshop
         February:  Using Mentor Texts
         March:  Conferring with Your Writers
         April:  Assessing Writing
         May:  Teachers as Writers

Our school goal this year is that there is writing in every classroom, every day!  With the demands of packed curriculum and busy schedules, I want to be able to support my fellow teachers by offering practical tips they can use in their classroom to make that goal reachable.
Turn on your writing faucet. "Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on." - Louis L'Amour
Another thing we will be doing this week is writing letters back to our pen pals from Canada!  We are lucky to have partnered up with Lisa from Grade 4 Buzz's 4th grade class.
Grade 4 Buzz
This past week, they sent us letters and a very cute bracelet for each pen pal!  

The kid loved them! 
They talked about their pen pals so much that now two other teachers (5th grade) have asked me to try to find their class another class to pen pal with.  Each class has about 20 students.  If you are interested in becoming pen pals with one of these 5th grade classes, please leave me a comment below and I will pass your information along!  :)

Wishing you a great week!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Spark Student Motivation -- Word Count Wizards

I'm linking up today with the very fun (and funny!) Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching for her linky, Spark Student Motivation.
I think we can all use a little motivation this time of year -- especially our students!

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that our school uses the Accelerated Reader system to monitor independent reading.  I think AR is a good way to keep track of student reading and to make sure students are understanding what they read.  If their TOPS report (the score of their AR quiz) comes back with low scores for comprehension, it's definitely time to get together with that student for some extra conferencing.

The AR system is set up for students to earn a certain number of "points" in a given time period.  (Each book is assigned a point level and when students take a quiz on a book, they earn a proportional number of points based on their score.)  This is one of the things that I do not like about AR.  When students read, they get fixated on earning "points."  Points do not make someone a better reader...To become a better reader, you need to read a lot, so I feel tracking Word Count Totals is a better way to go.

Each week, I publish a "Word Count Wizards" list that shares the top five readers in our classroom based on their Word Count total as measured by AR.  Seeing their name on the list (or wanting their name on the list) is incredibly motivating!  

Then every month, the 4th grade teachers host a pizza lunch for the top two Word Count Wizards in our classrooms.  We gather together to eat pizza, chips and cookies. (Unhealthy, I know, but also motivating for some students who want to enjoy junk food at school).

This past Thursday, we hosted our pizza lunch for November's winners.  Both of the students from my class read over 200,000 words each in November.  (Impressive, since many students' word count goal is about 150,000 words for the quarter!)

Word Count Wizards is a great way to get students reading MORE!  They love seeing those numbers go up, especially toward the end of the quarter when their numbers can get pretty high.  I don't doubt that by the end of this year, many of my students will have read over a million words!  WOW!!!

I'm headed over to Joanne's blog to see what other inspirations await!  Meet me there!!

(But before you go, don't forget to come back Sunday to link up and share a Peek at My Week -- my weekly linky party where you can share the highlights of your upcoming week.  There's plenty of motivation here as well!  :)
Have a great Saturday!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Oh My...It's December! Time for CURRENTLY!

Somehow the fact that the calendar flipped to a new page escaped me when I posted earlier today.  So I'm back with a second post to link up with Farley's Currently for December.
LISTENING:  My husband is working in the basement and I find it adorable that he is listening to Christmas carols on his radio.  This from a man who decided not to put up any lights on the house this year and contemplated going without a tree....I think he's coming around!  :)
LOVING:  Even though my hubby was not in the holiday spirit, it didn't stop me from decorating!

THINKING:  I like to plan out my meals for the week to reduce the number of last minute trips to the grocery store.  With Thanksgiving last week, it completely slipped my mind.  However, my daughter just reminded me that the only night we will all be home is Wednesday, so that gives me time.
WANTING:  I'm on the hunt for a wool applique pattern that I can start.  I'm thinking something with mittens.
NEEDING:  Tomorrow is Cyber Monday -- time to start shopping!  (Don't forget the Cyber Monday (and Tuesday) sale at TpT!  My entire store is on sale!!  :)
TRADITION:  Christmas Eve dinner at my mom's house!  I am super excited because my sister and her family from Dallas will be back for Christmas.  They only left in July, but I miss them terribly.  Can't wait to see them!

Don't forget to scroll down to link up with my weekly linky, A Peek at My Week!  Link up all week to let us know what you've got going on this week!
Have a great week!