Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Peek at My Week {September 29, 2013}

Thanks for stopping by!  I'm glad you are here.

I hope you will link up to share a Peek at your Week.  There are lots of great ideas here.   Remember to grab my button and to share the highlights of your upcoming week, whether that be at home or at school.
Whew!  What a week this past one was....

On Monday night when I went down to Chicago to see my sister for dinner, my mom and I were in an accident.  :(((  Everyone is fine, but I will be without my car for at least a month.  I'm just so thankful there were no injuries.  However, this meant a day off of school on Tuesday so I could go to the doctor and handle all of the insurance calls.  I hate being gone...especially if it is not a planned absence.

Moving on to my upcoming week....

I am excited to share that I am now teaching writing to all of the 4th graders at my school.  My teammate Mickey is teaching math to my kiddos and Jamie is now teaching my Science/SS block.  That leaves just reading and writing for me!

I am really looking forward to the opportunities that are coming our way this year.  I feel that I can really dive deep into writing with all of these students because we will be sure to have dedicated writing time every day (so important!) and this opens up lots of collaboration opportunities.

I have a fun project planned to get us started...

Let me set the scene....We are beginning to have some problems with students not always making good choices -- be it with responsibility, not always being honest, being respectful toward others....

Enter.... the Kid President Pep Talk video.
The students LOVE this little guy and really can relate to the message that he shares about choosing to be AWESOME, working on the same team, and making the world a better place.  My fellow teammates and I are really going to try to play up the "Choose Awesome" theme and really concentrate on pointing out the kids who are making good choices.

We are going to watch this video again (maybe twice!) and then as a group we are going to define what AWESOME IS (hard work, greatness, fulfilling, a choice) and what it IS NOT (seeking peer approval, always fair, go with the flow, follow the crowd).  Then we will write about being awesome and I hope to have some of the kiddos put together an iMovie of how they pledge to choose to be AWESOME.

So what about you?  How will you choose to be AWESOME this week?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Writer's Workshop: Reread, Reread, Reread

How many times do students turn in writing in your writing workshop that makes absolutely no sense?  You hand it back to the student and tell them to reread it and they kind of look at you funny.

We're supposed to actually reread what we write?

Before the teacher tells us what's wrong and what needs to be changed?


My teammate, Jamie, shared this great idea with me that I wanted to pass on so I'm linking up with Ideas by Jivey's Workshop Wednesday today to share.
I love to use whisper phones when my kiddos read because this helps them hear themselves read.  However, I only have six whisper phones in my room and with 20 kids, it's hard to have one available whenever it is needed.

So allow me to introduce the latest and greatest invention to help you hear yourself read....Your index fingers!

Do you know how it is when you have a cold and your ears are all stuffed up and you can hear yourself?  If kids use their index fingers to plug their ears, they can instantly hear themselves without having to talk louder than a whisper.

We used this strategy last week when we were working on rereading our writing....About every 5 minutes I would say "Stop and reread" and the students would plug their ears and whisper read what they had just written, making any changes as they "heard" their writing in a new way.

Amazing...and so simple! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tried It Tuesday -- No More Repeating

Happy Tuesday everyone!  Time to link up with Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper for her always fun and informational Tried It Tuesday linky party.
I don't know about you, but I feel like a broken record lately...

I give a direction and no sooner are the words out of my mouth (and still hanging in the air like in a speech bubble in a comic strip), someone asks me "What am I supposed to do?" or "Where do I put this?" or "How many sentences do I have to write?"

You get the idea.

This is especially frustrating because we use the "Ask three then me" routine in our room.  But apparently some kids want to cut right to the chase...

So I have now come up with a system to help cut down on these dreaded "repeats".

When a student asks me to repeat something, their number goes on the board and I begin making hash marks for how many times I have to repeat a direction to them.
It is AMAZING how much repeats have been reduced since I started this!  It serves as a visual reminder to students that they need to listen the first time I give a direction.  After all, when they grow up, I don't think their boss is going to like repeating a direction four times before it gets done, right?

I hope you'll head on over to Holly's blog to read about more Tried Its!  I'm on my way there now!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Peek at My Week {September 22, 2013}

Hi everyone!  I hope you are having a great weekend!  Fall has definitely arrived here in Wisconsin -- and the calendar proves it.  Sunday is the first day of fall!

I love fall -- apples, pumpkin pie, colorful leaves, apple cider, hayrides & football.  Bring it on!! 

I'm starting my Peek at My Week a little early this weekend.  I noticed that Erin at I'm Lovin Lit already had her post up and running so I figured I get this party started so she can link up!  :) 

So here is how it works....Share with us a few of the bigger things you have going on at home or at school this week.  No need to share your entire lesson plans.  (Let's keep this fun for you and your readers.)  Then link your post below and don't forget to share some love with your neighbors!
So here's a peek at my upcoming week... 

On Monday night, I will be driving down to Chicago with my mom to see my sister, Julie, who is in town for a business meeting.  (She is a regional manager with Weight Watchers.)  She and her family moved to Dallas in June and I miss her terribly.
In Writer's Workshop this week, we will begin working on revising one of our writing projects.  Revising is always a difficult thing for students, and I think this is mostly because they haven't been given the strategies to know HOW to revise.

Most of the time students think revising their writing is copying it over neatly on new paper, maybe correcting a spelling error or capital letter or two.

I have been talking up revising since the first day of writing class.  Revising is where the MAGIC happens, and it should take up a majority of the writing process.  (Many think "drafting" should take the longest, but it shouldn't...)

I have been reading a great book by Georgia Heard called "The Revision Toolbox:  Teaching Techniques That Work."
Let me tell you...I have been kicking myself that I didn't find this book this past summer when I was doing my workshop on revising for the UWM-Writing Project.  There are sooooo many cool ideas here!

This week as we revise, we will be doing the Cracking Open Words activity where we take a boring sentence from our writing and try to stretch it into several sentences by taking out the boring words and replacing them with sensory details that help us "Show, Don't Tell."

Here's an example...

Instead of saying "It was a cold autumn day," we could say:

The wind howled through the trees, shaking the last of the crisp, dry leaves and forcing them to flutter to the hard ground.  The tips of my ears stung from the chill, and I pulled my jacket tighter around me.  Even the pumpkins looked frosty on a day like today.

I plan to do this activity with the students where they take a boring line out of my writing and help me crack it open.  They love to play with my writing and are really excited when they can make a suggestion or point a mistake out.

I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thought Museums -- Telling the Story Behind the Pictures

I hope everyone is having a great week!  I can't believe it's Wednesday already...I have been fighting a terrible cold since Monday.  Yesterday, my teamie, Jamie, brought me in two packets of Vitamin C powder for my water bottle and I feel soooo much better today.  She takes such good care of me!  :)
Today, I'm linking up with Jivey's Workshop Wednesday to share some ideas about my Writing Workshop.  So many great ideas here!  I hope you will check it out for yourself.

Writing Workshop is off to a good start in my classroom.  I am teaching two classes of writing this year as my other teamie, Mickey, is teaching math to my kiddos.  I love teaching writing and she loves teaching math so it is a win-win.  It also means that I get much better at teaching writing because of all that extra practice.

Today in both writing classes we did our Thought Museum projects.  Thought Museums are where you put an interesting picture or quote on a poster board and the kids walk around silently and comment on the "story" behind the picture.
We talked about the difference between surface comments ("It is a rollercoaster") and imagination comments ("Just as they started down the hill, the lady wished she hadn't agreed to ride the Train of Terror.")  Some kids still gave surface comments, but many used their imaginations and really tried to use the picture for inspiration.  I was amazed at how quiet the room was as students walked around and examined the "exhibits."

When they were finished, we talked about how we all see things differently and how, as writers, we need to always be on the lookout for something that needs to be given a voice through our writing. Afterall...that's what writers do, right?

Have a great rest of your week!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Peek at My Week {September 15, 2013}

Welcome back to another edition of A Peek at My Week!  This is where we share some highlights of our coming week -- either at school or at home.  I hope you will consider linking up and reading along. 

Please share a few interesting highlights, not your whole lesson plans.  If you use days of the week buttons, don't feel like you have to come up with something for every day.  I want this to be easy and fun for you (and your readers)!  :)

We are beginning our third week of school this week and will be giving the fall MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) assessment in reading (Tuesday) and math (next Tuesday).  Do you use the MAP test at your school?  We test three time a year, which is pretty elaborate, but provides great data on how well the kiddos are growing.
One thing you may find interesting if you give the MAP test is that NWEA has changed it a bit to resemble the up and coming Smarter Balance test.  You can view sample problems here.  It's not longer completely multiple choice.  Now students have to click, drag, or type some answers.  I will be interested to see how it goes on Tuesday as I watch my class.  We will definitely preview the sample problems on our SMART Board before then.
I'm excited to continue with Writers Workshop this week.  So far, the kids have written "I'm an Expert" papers to let their readers know what they are really good at.  I tried to make this assignment fun, so I encouraged some of the kids to choose something silly that they are really good at.  I modeled with my own area of expertise:  Falling asleep on the sofa at 8:00 every night.  A few of the kids took off with my suggestion.  One of my students wrote his paper on "I'm an expert at not paying attention in class" (at least he is aware of it...) and another wrote his paper on "I'm an expert at hanging upside down from a tree branch without getting dizzy."  The are hilarious!
This week we will be looking for writing inspiration from the world around us.  I have talked with the kids about how writers are always aware of things around them and are looking to give a voice to the things that can't speak.  I have shared much of my own writer's notebook with them where I write a lot about nature and my dogs and I think they are starting to get it.
So we will begin with Thought Museums using picture prompts.  I learned about this writing experience from my UWM-WP class this summer.  You can read the original post here.
Basically, the way it works is you put some interesting pictures or quotes on a large piece of paper in the middle of a group of desks.  The students walk around SILENTLY and comment on what they think is going on in the pictures by writing on the paper.  When you are done, share some of the comments and talk about how we all can see different things. 
Students can then use one of the pictures as the subject of a writing piece.  They pick the genre of writing -- a story, poem, haiku, conversation, newspaper article, etc. 
I have been gathering some cool pictures on my Pinterest board to use for this activity.  Here's a preview of some of them:great picture for a writing prompt
 Writing Prompts-Photo Prompts AMAZING
 Use the following words in a ten-minute free write: 1. BENCH, 2.GRIPPED, and 3. WOODEN or GREEN. **Standards:  L5, W3, W10 (distinguishes among connotations such as giggle/snicker/guffaw, uses precise words/phrases, writes routinely within time frames) ** Lesson link: (Photo source link below)
I'll share how it goes!
Now it's your turn to give us some highlights of your upcoming week!
Have a great week everyone!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Five for Friday {September 13, 2013}

It's Friday, which means it's time to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for the very fun Five for Friday linky party!
I don't know about you, but by the time Friday night rolls around, my brain has turned to mush.  Thank goodness I have my Photo Stream from my iPhone to help me remember what I did this week.  :)

This week, we finished our hallway display for goal setting.  Students traced their arms, decorated them with things that are important to them, and then decided on a goal for this year.  We call this display "Reaching for Our Goals".  The cool part is that all of the 4th and 5th grade hallway participated in this project so all you see when you walk down our hall are our students' colorful arms and their goals.  Love it!
Love this one!
This student was in my class last year and she was a lot of fun!

We are getting ready to start Writers' Workshop so we brainstormed expectations for our time.  This is what WW should look like, sound like, and feel like if you walk into our classroom during writing time.  I love that one of my boys thought that this time should feel like "The Writing Zone".  That truly would be wonderful, to be so into your writing that you don't notice anything else going on around you, wouldn't it?
Today, we did a little team building and Saved Fred.  That darn Fred keeps falling out of his boat because I know he's been saved by many of you this year already!

Fred is all safe and sound back in his dry boat.  Now if he would just stay put...

Don't freak out....this is not what you think.  :)  On Wednesday morning, Toby decided to get up close and personal with a skunk.  It sprayed him right across his chest.  Ick!!  This tomato sauce bath was my husband's attempt to get the smell out.  (BTW -- If this ever happens to your dog, you are supposed to blot away the skunk oil with an old towel and wash the dog with Dawn detergent first.  Trust me, I learned that hard way.)

I love the sunsets this time of year!
I hope you had a wonderful week!  As you begin to look on toward next week, don't forget to come back on Sunday to link up for my weekly Sunday linky party, A Peek at My Week.  Share a highlight or two of what you've got planned either at school or at home.  

Have a great weekend! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tried It Tuesday - Clock Buddies

I'm so excited that it is Tuesday so I can link up with the amazing Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried it Tuesday!

This week I'm sharing about something that has really saved me lots of time in the classroom...Clock Buddies.

The concept is pretty simple.  Students are given a clock template.  They walk around and "schedule" a classmate for each hour that they both have open on their clocks.  (If a classmate is already scheduled at that time, you have to move on to someone else.)
Then when it is time to work with a partner, I will say something like "Please work with your 3:00 partner" and change it up every time. 
This avoids students always working with the same person when they work in partners and gives everyone a chance to get to know each other.  I also specifically gave the direction that half of your buddies had to be girls and half had to be boys to avoid the problem of always wanting to work only with your besties.  :)
I found this template online and you can grab one for yourself here.
I love Clock Buddies!  They save time, energy, and hurt feelings!  :)
Head on over to Fourth Grade Flipper to see what else everyone has tried this week!