Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Peek at My Week {1-26-14}

Brrrrr....Baby, it's cold outside.  The polar vortex has returned to Wisconsin....again. The forecasted high temp for both Monday and Tuesday is -3 degrees.  At this point, I'm reluctant to share what I've got going on this week at school because there's a good chance that we will have a snow day or two heading our way.

But the snow must go on.  Oops, I mean "show!"
Monday is my birthday!  (A good reason to have the day off of school, right?)  It's not a major birthday, but every year on earth is a reason to celebrate!  I received a very cool bracelet in the mail today from my niece, Gracie, who moved to Dallas this past summer.
It's called "Rose Garden" and she wrote a note with the bracelet to not let my daughter Kara steal this one because she worked "really hard" on it.  I can tell!

To celebrate my big day, why not throw a sale in my TpT Store???  Now through Monday, my entire store is 20% off.   This would be a great time to pick up my Word Parts We Know program to help your students master some vocabulary or my Reading Challenge Genre Tags to motivate them to keep reading!

This week at school, I plan to begin working on text structure with my students.  I'm going to tie writing in with this and as we study one kind of text structure, we will write a short paragraph to demonstrate that structure.

I also wanted to give you an update on Writing Circles that I wrote about last weekend.  I have to say, the students are REALLY enjoying them!  They love that they are not tied to any one project for longer than two days, they still get a choice in what they write, and they can give and receive feedback from their friends.  I love that it has gotten even my most reluctant writers writing!  We are going to keep doing Writing Circles through this week.  Then everyone will choose one of their drafts from a Writing Circle, revise it, and publish it for a grade.  Can't wait!!

And perhaps the best part of this week is that we will be sending January packing and welcoming in the short month of February!  Winter is a very tough time for me.  I don't do well with the short days and being home bound because of extreme cold, especially with these polar vortexes coming around.  February means that March will be here soon....then spring.  Ahhhh...I can do this!  :)

Wishing you a blessed and warm week!  :)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Peek at My Week {1-19-14}

Here we are, knocking at the door of another week.  We are busy, busy, busy this week, so let's get to it! Thanks for stopping by to check out a Peek at My Week and I hope you will link up and share your week as well.
This week, I am going to begin Writing Circles with my 4th graders.  If you are not familiar with Writing Circles, they are a lot like Literature Circles.  I learned about them in the UW-M Writing Project this past summer and are the work of Dr. Jim Vopat.
Here is a quick tutorial, but you should really check out the book if you want to do this in your classroom.  It is great!

1.  Group:  Divide your students into groups of about 4-5 students.  Have each group come up with a name for their group (consider it to be something they all have in common, like my group was called "The Procrastinators" :)
2.  Brainstorm:  Each student is given three notecards.  On each notecard, each student writes 1-2 words of a very broad topic (pets, vacation, school, family, memories, sports, etc.). 
3.  Collect & Distribute:  One student collects all of the cards and shuffles them up.  He then deals three random cards to each person in the group.
4.  Discard:  Each student looks at their three cards, chooses one of the three that she would most like to write about and discards the other two.
5.  Rating:  Students then pass their ONE card to the person on their right.  This person looks at the topic and rates it by putting a small symbol in the top of the notecard.  They use these symbols to rate: 
          * = I would be excited to write about this topic
          + = I could write about this topic
          - = I am NOT interested in this topic AT ALL
Continue to pass the cards to the right and rate them until students get their original card back.
6.  Choose a Topic:  Based on the ratings, students choose the topic they will ALL write about.  It will probably be the topic with the most stars (*).
7.  Writing: Students take a designated amount of time to write about their topic.  I plan to give my students the rest of the writing period and one more day to draft.  Students each CHOOSE the genre they will write in, but the topic has to be the same for all group members.  For example, if the topic is "Travel," students could write a poem, a narrative, a vacation review, a newspaper article, an email, etc.
8.  Peer Feedback:  Students then come back together as a group.  They take turns reading their writing out loud to their group.  However, before reading, they tell their group members exactly what kind of feedback they would like.  This is very important as it really helps with the feedback process.  Here are some ideas:
          Connections you had
          Questions that popped in your head as I read my writing
          Does my word choice sound right?
          What did I do well?
          Suggestions for revision
9.  Future Use:  Students can then add this writing to their writer's notebook to use as a writing piece they will take through the entire writing process at a later time if they like it.
10.  Publication:  After about four Writing Circles cycles, ask students to polish and submit one of their four writing pieces for assessment.

I have been excited about Writing Circles since this summer and I finally feel like my students are ready to give them a try.  Can't wait!

Have you used something like Writing Circles in your classroom?  Have any ideas to share?  I'd love to hear them!  :)

Also this week, my baby boy is turning 16!!!!  How did this happen???  While I would like to stop time, I know I can't.  I am so proud of the wonderful young man he has turned into.
Here he is on the day he received his Eagle Scout Award

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Spark Student Motivation -- Student Read Alouds

Happy Saturday!!  The weather behaved and I actually worked five whole days this week.  I'm happy to be back into the swing of things and I think my kids are too.

Today I'm linking up with the oh-so-talented Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching for Spark Student Motivation Saturday.  I really think that Joanne should change the name of this linky party to "Spark Teacher Motivation" because there are so many great ideas shared that really get me moving!  Just from reading Joanne's post, I can feel her energy and enthusiasm for teaching.  (I want to be like her when I grow up!  :)

So today I'd like to share an idea that came to me before break.  I had called my students to the reading rug to listen to the day's read aloud.  Right then, another teacher walked in and needed to have a brief conversation with me.  With the students waiting on the rug, one of my students got up, picked up a picture book from the table, and read it to the class.  She did such a great job, that the Student Read Aloud was born!

I simply hung up a monthly calendar and any student who wanted to sign up to read a short story to the class could. This was completely optional -- I didn't want to force anyone to do this.

To prepare, students would pick out a short story from our classroom or school library.  They would practice it for several days, then read it to the class on their chosen day.  In return for their reading, they would receive $20 in Collegiate Cash (our classroom economy money) and a Read Aloud Rockstar tag for their Book Genre Challenge necklace.
However, what they really received was improved FLUENCY and READING SKILLS, along with CONFIDENCE from speaking in front of a crowd.

It's a win/win all around!

Head on over to Head Over Heels for Teaching to find some more motivation for your students (or yourself!).  But before you go, I hope you will join me tomorrow for my weekly linky party, A Peek at My Week.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Favorite Teacher Flashback

I am excited to be participating in a scavenger hunt to celebrate 300 Bloglovin followers for both Susan of Middle School OCD and Erin of Miss Lifesaver.  Congratulations ladies!!!

Middle School OCD     Miss Lifesaver
Just for completing the scavenger hunt, look at all the great prizes you will win in the "Everybody Wins" category:
Graphics and Fonts by Confetti Graphics, The Learning Site, Lovin' Lit, and Shelia Melton
There will also be a special Rafflecopter to win these fun prizes:
Here, you will find my Number of the Day Task Cards.

My favorite teacher -- and the reason I became a teacher myself -- was Ms. Mullen.  Believe it or not, I had her for THREE years straight!  (Poor lady!!)  She taught me 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades.  Having the same teacher for two years in a row is not all that uncommon...but three years???

What I loved about Ms. Mullen was that she loved Mickey Mouse and she had a Mickey Mouse stamp that she would use to stamp your paper if you did a REALLY good job!  She was also Irish and loved to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  A leprechaun, named O'Reilly, would leave us notes in our desks. (One year, I thought I didn't get a note and then Ms. Mullen suggested that I clean my desk....) She also helped the class write a play that we performed in our school library and one year, we even turned our classroom into the inside of an airplane for a science unit -- complete with a visit from a real pilot!  (Talk about project based learning, ahead of her time!)

She was awesome -- is awesome -- and is still teaching today!

So I hope you will head on over to Middle School OCD or Miss Lifesaver to continue on the scavenger hunt to read about more awesome teachers.

Good luck to you!!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Peek at My Week {1-12-14}

I worked a whopping two days last week.  Between two snow days due to the "polar vortex" (LOVE that name!) and a day off for my mom's surgery, I feel like I really haven't been back from break yet.  So this week, I'm going to try to work five whole days and see how it goes!  :)

So welcome to another edition of A Peek at My Week, my weekly linky party where you can link up to share what you have going on this week!  Thanks for stopping by!
This week, we will begin a strong focus on vocabulary.  We are finished with my Word Parts We Know program, where students learn five new prefix or suffix word parts each week for twelve weeks.
This program has REALLY helped my students become better word decoders and readers.  I can't wait to see their MAP test results when they take the test in two weeks! 

Now, they are ready to apply those word parts to a wider variety of words.  We will be using the Word Up Program through Flocabulary along with activities from the totally awesome book, Word Nerds, to master all kinds of exciting language.
In reading and writing, we will be working on figurative language.  In the past, I have taught my students the different types of figurative language through the use of lots of worksheets.....Boring!  Ineffective!  Waste of paper and time!

So this year I came up with an idea.  In reading class, we will be reading lots of nonfiction articles about Martin Luther King, Jr. I thought it would be cool for the students to learn about the different types of figurative language then demonstrate their learning by writing about MLK using figurative language.  I'm not sure what this is exactly going to look like yet, but I will let you know when I do!

Finally this week, I am going back to school myself.  I begin my first class to get my Reading Teacher license.  Since I hope that one day I will become a literacy consultant, this is a must have!  While I am very excited to learn about this topic, I am not looking forward to the extra work.....but as my OLW for this year is "forward,"  I know this is something I have to do to move myself forward both professionally and personally.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The One Word Project in Action

Jamie at Teaching Tidbits and More just dropped me an email to share how she has used the One Word Project with her 2nd graders -- and I was glad she did!
Jamie's post shares how she adapted this writing project for the younger grades.  From reading the students' writing, I can see that she used a frame for writing to help guide her students.  I love that idea!  I hope you will visit Jamie's blog and read more! She does a great job explaining everything she did with her young writers.  Check out this young writer's work...

My 4th graders began their One Word Project today (remember....we've had two snow days this week so we're a little bit behind) and I am really impressed with their thoughtfulness about choosing their word.  I will share their work as soon as we are finished!

If you want to learn more about this writing project and how you can do it with your students, you can read my original post here.  

Here is the video I made to share with students to introduce the project.
I also found a blog post from Jon Gordon, author of One Word That Will Change Your Life, in which he explains the concept behind choosing your One Word on the Today Show on New Year's Day.  (You can find it here.)

 I love sharing writing projects and appreciate those of you who share how you adapt them to meet the needs of your students.  If you have done this project with your class, let me know!  I'd love to hear how it turned out! 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Reading Motivation Needed???

In case you haven't heard, there is a HUGE giveaway going on at Head Over Heels for Teaching and Fourth Grade Flipper.  Holly and Joanne are joining their superpowers to bring you this enormous giveaway to celebrate both of these ladies reaching 1,000 followers!  Congrats, ladies!  With all of the inspiration you provide on your blogs, I'm not surprised at your following.  :)
One of the prizes offered today is my Reading Challenge Genre Tags.

If you are familiar with the 40 Book Challenge shared by Donalyn Miller in The Book Whisperer, these tags are a must-have!  There is a different tag for each of the 40 books in the challenge representing a variety of genres.  

I started the 40 Book Challenge in September, but it pretty much went no where.  But once I brought these babies out, the amount of reading in my classroom SOARED!  I have one student who has already met the 40 Book Challenge and several others who are close.  My students are reading like CRAZY just to earn these tags.  (One boy took home four chapter books over break so he could read, read, read!)

You can enter the contest for this and other fun prizes at either of these blogs just by clicking on the buttons below.  New winners every day!  Best of luck to you!!
Head Over Heels for Teaching   4th Gr Flipper

Monday, January 6, 2014

Moving Forward with One Word

I just found out that school, which was canceled today due to the apparent return of the Ice Age, is also canceled for tomorrow.  Boo....

While many of you wonder what is wrong me for being upset with another day off, I just want to say that we are now on our THIRD snow day of the year and this is only January 6th.  At this rate, we will be in school until July.

I feel stuck.

Cabin fever has set in.

I can't feel my fingers and my poor dogs don't want to go outside.

It's times like these that I need my One Word for 2014...
Yes, I know that's a lot of words...but my One Word is right there in the middle -- FORWARD.  All those other little words around it are what moving forward will help me do.  :)

So while school hasn't decided to move forward yet this year, I have managed to go forward in some other ways:
* I've been on my treadmill FIVE times since January 1st.  I know this because I am keeping track on this cute little spreadsheet made by Shannon at IRunReadTeach. Visit her blog and you can pick one up for yourself!
* Today, I ran (on the treadmill) for a total of 20 minutes.  (OK, not all at once, but a total of 20 minutes today.)  This is HUGE for me!  Usually if you find me running, there's probably something chasing me, but not so today!
* I managed to clean my office.  I discovered some things that I didn't know I had.  Hmmm...
* I met up with some wonderful bloggers on My Fitness Pal to encourage each other on our journey for better health in 2014.  Thanks, ladies!!  ;)

Keeping One Word in mind is very powerful!  To remind myself of this, I made this picture to put on my desk at work to remind myself to go forward there too!
With this little burst of creativity, I am linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It.  Her little linky party has really helped me move "forward" with my craftiness this year, and I thank her for that!  : )
Now let's just hope that the weather begins to move forward so we don't see this high temperature again:
Stay warm!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Peek at My Week {1-05-14}

Welcome to another edition of A Peek at My Week.  I hope you will link up to share what you've got going on this week, either at school or at home.'s official.  I am DONE with winter.

Don't get me wrong.  I love beautiful falling snow, but this 30 mph-whipping-you-in-the-face-I-can't-feel-my-feet-if-I-have-to-plow-the-driveway-one-more-time-I'm-moving-to-Florida baloney has got to go. Even my poor Puggle, Rosie, is having a hard time dealing with all of this cold weather.  This is what she did today as I was folding laundry fresh out of the hot dryer...pretty smart pooch if you ask me!
Unfortunately, it looks like the worst is yet to come.  We were supposed to start back to school on Monday but it has already been canceled because we are expecting a high temp of -12 degrees that day.  I'm not joking.  Here's the proof:
And Tuesday won't be a heat wave either so rumors are that school will be canceled for that day as well.  :(  Seriously, we are going to be going to school until July if all of these snow days keep happening!

So...what else is going on this week for me?

I'm going to be spending a lot of time getting used to these babies.
I have worn glasses for a long time, but at my eye appointment last week, my eye doc said those dreaded words:  "You need bifocals."  Ughhhh.....  I tried wearing them today, but so far they've given me nothing but a headache.  I completely attribute my need for these not to the fact that I am about to turn 43, but that I do soooo much reading that I have worn my poor eyes out.  That sounds about right, doesn't it?

On Thursday and Friday, I will be spending the days with my mom who is having knee replacement surgery so I won't be at school.  My step-dad is no longer driving and has some other health concerns so I am stepping in as her caregiver.  Prayers for both of us would be appreciated!  : v)

On a side note, on Tuesday, January 7th, I will have my Reading Genre Challenge Tags offered in a giveaway sponsored by Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching and Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper.  Both of these lovely and talented ladies have reached 1,000 followers and are holding a HUGE giveaway.  You should definitely check it out!