Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saturday Spark Student Motivation: Writing and Singing Songs with the Class: Freebie!

Hello Everyone!  Today, I am linking up with the always amazing, Joanne, from Head Over Heels for Teaching for Spark Students Motivation Saturday. A few years ago I started a tradition of writing songs with my class when learning new material. I realized my class was a bunch of right-brain students and luckily I was more of a right-brain teacher myself. If you want to know what type of teacher you are, check out this article from Scholastic, it explains it all. 

I know I am a right-brain teacher because teachers with right-brain strengths generally prefer to use hands-on activities over a lecture format. With the right-brain preference of seeing the whole picture, these teachers incorporate more art, manipulatives, visuals, and music into their lessons. They tend to embrace Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences. They like to assign more group projects and activities, and prefer a busy, active, noisy classroom environment. The classroom of a strong right-brain teacher will typically have materials and books scattered all over. 

We started with a fun topic, Junior Achievement. Does anyone teach a Junior Achievement program? We get parents volunteers and community members and now teach the whole program in ONE day. I actually like it. We call it JA in a day. I used this song to pre-teach my students, so they wouldn't be clueless and get more out of our JA day. 

Everyday at recess some of my girls would sing their favorite new songs to me so I got a sense of what type of music my students were into. Luckily I am still a teeny-bopper at heart and sing along with the radio...every chance I get! I started by picking a song that had a repetitive chorus and had a very catchy tune. What fourth grader doesn't like One Direction, That's What Makes You Beautiful? (It's important if you are trying this out to find the Karaoke version of music because your words are obviously going to be different!)

Next, I wrote key words on the board and groups of students looked up definitions. When we had our research we (mostly me, but I led them to the ideas) started writing our song. The fourth graders loved this so much, it went viral in the school and all the classrooms were learning and singing it. Some teachers wanted to kill me, but others loved the idea. Kids taught their friends on the bus, at after school activities, and I even received parent emails telling me if teaching doesn't work out I should go into song writing. hahaha The exciting part is that the students REALLY learned the material! 

If any of this fits in with your curriculum you are welcome to download the song for free by clicking on the above picture. If I can find my other songs from over the years, I will post them another day. I will be trying this soon with my new class. 

Have a wonderful weekend friends!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Five For Friday: Busy Week: & Giveaway!

Today I am home with my two sick kids linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday! My one and three year old were up all night with sore throats and fevers. At our double doctor appointment this morning, they both tested positive for Strep! The one year old also has a sinus infection and staff infection causing a rash all over his body. Seriously??? This is what we get for the first full week of school/daycare! The doctor said it was the first case of the season for her. Yikes. So since it's nap time for the kids, I have a few minutes to link up for this fun linky.

First up this week is a proud mommy moment. We signed a birthday card for Grandma and check out what my three year old did on her own! This was the first time she wrote her name all by herself and I was so proud of her. I mean "Isabella" is pretty tough to write for a three year old!

In Writing this week we worked on a super fun intro lesson to opinion writing. As a treat I brought in little packs of Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, and Chocolate Bars. The students were able to pick a type of candy to work with during the lesson. In front of them they had a blank opinion plan and a sticky note. While tasting the candy in front of them, they had to decide on their favorite color Skittle or Sour Patch Kid. If they had chocolate (my poor friends with braces) they chose their favorite type of chocolate bar. On the post it note, the students had to write two reasons to support why they liked the "yellow Skittle" or whichever they chose. Next, they took their plan and post it to a group of students who picked the same color of the candy, so all the "Red Skittles" met together. They discussed why they liked the Red Skittle the best. Some students said it reminded them of strawberries and strawberries reminded them of summer time, the red was sweet like sugar, or just red was their favorite color.  Each group worked to complete a plan together. From here, the students wrote a first draft using their opinion plan. I was so impressed with the quality of conversations in the groups, the brainstorming, and the writing. I know this was a very surface level opinion writing lesson, but it certainly grabbed their attention, allowed them to have fun while working, and showed me they were all able to choose, plan, and draft an essay! Things can only go up from here!

I am getting ready for Open House next week and I came across this great sign to add to my Power Point presentation. Sometimes parents don't realize how important it is to make sure their child reads every night. I think this will be a perfect hand out to explain the concept of reading every night.

My friend, Gary, AKA Scrappy Guy, has just reached (over) 100 Followers, and he is having an awesome Friday Funday, including a Remember When Linky! Make sure to go check it out, and check out my post from back in April, when I made it to 100 followers! Welcome to the blogging community Gary, we are happy to have you as one of our friends! :)

Last, but not least is one of my favorite ideas of the week. If you know us from last year, you know we wrote about using Mentor Sentences to teach grammar. Well at the awesome TpT BTS Sale, I purchased Mentor Sentences for the whole year. I started them this week and just in time for my BBB, Jivey, to come out with FOLDABLES to go with each week of Mentor Sentences, she is calling this new product, a Interactive Language Arts Notebook Unit. I am new to foldables this year, but absolutely LOVING them. My students LOVE cutting, gluing, and coloring. They don't even care that they have to do work in order to be able to complete the "fun stuff" in the lesson. It's actually like a light at the end of the tunnel. So Jivey came up with this new product to focus on one skill a week that is taught in the Mentor Sentence bundle. This week because it was September 11th, we read The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. First of all, that was an amazing book and brought on our September 11th talk, but the discussion this week during the Mentor Sentence time was awesome. I was so proud of what my students already knew and how they were learning from others. This week we focused on compound sentences and conjunctions. We were supposed to do the foldable for the The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, today, but I am out with sick kids. Yesterday, we did a different foldable made for Fireflies (hence the Jar with fireflies in it), but was quick and worked on compound sentences as well. I can tell my students and I are going to love working with this packet throughout the year. 
I know this was a long post, but I had an amazing week full of fun learning and wanted to share it all!

Have a fabulous weekend friends!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Writing Workshop Wednesday: Opinion Writing

Do you like my alliteration in the title? Smooth, huh? ;) Today was a loooonnnnggggg day. Even though I am over prepared for the school week by having amazing lesson plans that I create with Robyn, I just felt like this day would never end. Of course having the classroom above 92* and no air conditioning made it even harder to focus. By noon, the hallway floors were so wet from kids coming in from recess dripping sweat, that people were falling on the floor and I am not even going to discuss the smell! YUCK.

Anyways, I am happy to be sitting at home with my AC cranked up to link up with my BBB, Jivey!

We started off the year with opinion writing. Last year I purchased a great resource that I finally was able to use.  Included in this resources is a perfect example of one of my favorite essays to write, "My Favorite Restaurant." When teaching opinion writing in earlier years, we used to have the students pick their favorite restaurants and write about them. We would encourage the students to choose local restaurants, rather than chains, and would send the essays to the restaurant. We often received thoughtful letters back and sometimes gift cards. One teacher was even invited to dine with her class for free at the restaurant a child wrote about! I don't know why, but we haven't done that lesson in a few years. This year I hope I can get to it, but right now we are just starting to learn about the genre. We started the lesson by using the prewritten favorite restaurant essay as a mentor text. We then read it together, in partners, and individually. As a class we worked on putting the components of the text into the plan (basically backwards writing). It sounds simple, but was a great first lesson for the kids to see how important a plan can be and how it is actually the frame of a good essay!
They are excited to write a similar essay in the future, but instead of starting with that topic, we are doing something REALLY fun tomorrow. Instead of spoiling it (of course I will be blogging about it) I will just tell you it has to do with Skittles, Dum Dums, and Sour Patch Kids. Yum! It will definitely make for a fun and interesting writing class.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tried it Tuesday: My first FOLDABLE & FREEBIE!

Today I'm linking up with my BBB, Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried It Tuesday! I am super excited for this post because if you read my post from yesterday, you read how we just started our interactive notebook. After seeing other posts from amazing blogging teachers using interactive notebooks, I felt like I was missing something. I mentioned wanting to create some foldables, but I had no idea how. Sweet Bethany from, Hunters Teaching Tales, emailed me some tips. Since I am working on inferences in the classroom, we talked about a graphic organizer type of foldable that would be fun and helpful. I whipped one up in about two minutes and was so excited to test it out with my kiddos today. (Click on the picture if you'd like a free copy!) :)

If you've been keeping up with my blog, you know we are studying how literature can teach us what we have in common with one another. We are focusing on homes, families, and traditions. Another one of my BBBs, Jivey, recommended an amazing book Knots on a Counting Rope. Being only the first week of school with my little ones, I found the book very deep and great for inferencing. Many of my students have no background knowledge on Native Americans so some things went right over their heads. I was happy I read it slowly because it started a ton of great conversations with talking partners.

When it came time to stop and infer I had a lot of hands go up. Some of the ideas were totally crazy, but others made sense. The part that really surprised me was that the kids didn't get that the little boy in the story was born blind. We used our inferring skills at that point and it finally made sense. Now that I just gave away most of the book to you, I won't spoil it anymore. We actually made inferences throughout the whole book and used the Note & Notice strategy "Again and Again" I was very proud of my class for working so hard today. I will end this with a direct quote from one of my students, "I love that you are letting us color and cut out for reading and writing! It makes me love reading MORE!" That leaves me :) !!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Made It: Interactive Notebook!

Happy Monday! Today starts our first full week of school and I am already exhausted, my house is flipped upside down (although I spent all weekend cleaning), but my plan book is jam packed leaving me ready for a productive week. I am happy to be linking up with  Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It!

I want to start off by letting everyone know, we've never used interactive notebooks before and in fact, we've never even heard of them before the BIG TpT BTS sale. We saw this gem on the top sellers list and figured we'd give it a go. Robyn and I both purchased a copy (Yes, we follow the rules and support our fellow TpT authors) and plan on trying it in our classrooms this year. Since we started off the school year working on strategies to help make inferences, we figured we'd first try the inferencing standard. I do like how there are actual pictures of each notebook page (so you can see what it is supposed to look like), I LOVE that students get a chance to color and create pieces of the notebook to make it more engaging and personal, and I also like that there are multiple copies on a page to cut down on the copying.  Since we have never done anything like this before I tried to go to Dollar Tree and grab some table caddies, like the millions I saw there earlier in the summer, but they were all sold out. There are two more Dollar Trees in the town I teach in and will check for them tomorrow. I want to be able to have a place for glue sticks, scissors, colored pencils...etc. at each table. It will create organization and save time on kids getting up out of their seats for materials.

This year we are trying something new in our schedule. We have a WIN block for enrichment while intervention students are pulled out. We thought the interactive notebook would be a great supplement for this time period. Robyn and I only have a few students leaving during this block and thought that if we did the interactive notebook during this block with the majority of the class, the next morning, at morning work time, would be a perfect time for a student leader to help the intervention students catch up in their notebooks. It's a Win/Win Win block situation...hahaha, well hopefully it will work out well this way. We'll let you know after this week!

So we set off today....printed....made copies...and got to work...

The students absolutely LOVED cutting, pasting, and coloring the pieces in their reading notebooks. I loved that the standard was written in student friendly language because it will be helpful and appealing to show parents at conferences next month.  The top section was too wide to fit on the notebook page, so I had to chop off the magnifying glass. We wrote an inferencing answer frame below the puzzle pieces so the students could refer back to it throughout the year. Tomorrow we are going to go on with our lesson reading Knots on a Counting Rope, practice the again and again strategy, and make inferences from the text.

I originally thought this interactive notebook would have more foldables involved, but this one does not. I plan on making some to add to the notebook. Other than that,  I am excited to continue to use this throughout the year.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Spark Student Motivation Saturdays with Scented Stickers!

Better late than never, but it is time to link up with the wonderful Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching for Spark Student Motivation Saturday! 

Well I left school in a rush on Friday and I wasn't prepared for this post, but I figured I'd post about it now and update with a picture later. 

I think I remember getting stickers in school starting all the way back in Kindergarten. It's no surprise to hear kids love stickers, even in 4th grade. This year I splurged a few dollars more and bought smelly smiley face stickers! Talk about motivating, the kids will do just about anything for them! My favorite way to give them out is in writing. We write "Quick Writes" daily in our writing journals from our Writing Calender. We read the topic of the day out loud, set the timer for ten minutes, and students just write. The goal is not to put the pencil down and to build up your writing stamina. 

When the timer goes off, each student counts the number of words that were written and record the number at the top of their notebook page. I give a sticker to everyone that wrote their highest amount of words so far. Of course this depends on the topic of the day and the students motivation for the day, but these stickers really do help out. We share many of the responses and sometimes students want to turn these ideas into stories. I like that the students are always building their writing stamina, being supportive to everyone who earns a sticker, and creating a classroom community by challenging each other and working on their listening skills when listening to journal entries read aloud. When I give these to the students to take home at the end of the year the journals are almost completely full. The students love to look back at their first entries and see how far they have come in writing throughout their fourth grade year. I definitely see myself buying more scented stickers in the future! :)

Have you heard? One of my BBB, Jivey, is having a giveaway! In celebration of reaching 1,000 followers she is giving away a few (actually, a TON) of her favorite things! I'm excited that one of those things is my poster pack of Creative Synonyms for OVERUSED words

Be sure to go over and enter for a chance to win in a bunch of different raffles! Lots of chances to win, not just one!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thursday Throwdown; Notice & Note Strategies for Close Reading

This week I am linking up with I'm Lovin Lit & Jivey! Since I just got back to school, I started up my Reader's Workshop with Kara, the Reading Specialist who pushes into my room a few times a week. I was lucky because I got to sit back and watch her teach the lesson we planned and then repeat the same lesson with my second class. She is an amazing teacher and while watching her teach you can certainly understand why she was elected Teacher of the Year for 2013! 

We are just starting out unit one: How does literature and informational text help us discover what we have in common? From that essential question we go into learning about homes around the world and even people without standard homes. 

We started off the unit with the question: 

I like to type the question on return address labels and stick them directly into the reading notebooks. It alleviates the students taking forever to copy the question and gives them more time to focus on an answer.   I loved that the students were able to answer this question before we started because most of the answers were. 

"A house is what you and your family live in and always filled with video games, toys, clothes, and food."

Next we taught a reading strategy called "Again and Again" taken from a great book Notice and Note by Kylene Beers.

I liked teaching using this strategy so much, I created my own bulletin board set of all six reading strategies to refer back to throughout the year. 

Since I plan on teaching all of the strategies, I just ordered my own copy of this book. I can't wait to get it in and read it!

 Below is Kara's anchor chart, I can't take credit for the beautiful handwriting, but I can take credit for the awesome Mr. Sketch smelly chart markers my blog friends talked me into ordering. BEST.THING.EVER!

Anyways, after the students answered the above question in their notebook, we used the above strategy to read one of my favorite books Fly Away Home. Eve Bunting repeats the concept of "not getting noticed" a ton of times throughout this book. The students picked up on it right away and were actually saying "Why does this keep showing up again and again?" while talking with their discussion partner. It was a very interactive lesson and the students actually enjoyed it. We used this strategy to work on inferencing and it worked great.  

When we finished the book, the students used their skills to actually understand the metaphor of the bird in the book and I was SUPER impressed with their amazing thinking skills. (I don't want to say too much, just in case you've never read this book before, but I HIGHLY recommend this text!)

We charted information from this story onto the class chart and then the students went back to their seats to work. My favorite part of this lesson was when answered the question, "What does this story teach us about home?" I'm happy to say that EVERY SINGLE student had a new definition of home after reading this text. Everyone wanted to change their previous answer, but instead we just added on to it. I wanted them to leave it because it shows new learning from the text and I explained to them that new learning means their minds were opening and getting smarter. They seemed to like that answer and were proud of their new thinking. 

I'm excited to continue with this unit and think of some more "home" books. If anyone has any suggestions, PLEASE let me know! :)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tried it Tuesday/ Planning with CCSS at your fingertips!

Today I am linking up with my good friend and fellow fourthie, Holly, at The Fourth Grade Flipper!

While planning in my new Erin Condren planner for the first time last week, I'll admit, I was afraid to write in it, but my amazing erasable gel pens made me feel more at ease. I am lucky enough to be able to plan with a few other teachers during our lunch period at the end of the week. More minds = better ideas! I love thinking of creative and fun activities for the students to participate in, but I'll admit it, I need to get better at thinking about what standards I should be focused on meeting. My idea was to make all of the CCSS on labels, print them, and stick them into my lesson plan book so I could easily see at a glance what standards I was meeting per week. 

I set up the labels and started the tedious job...realizing just for Reading, Writing, and LA, I'd need about 45 pages, then I got lazy. I checked TpT and found some awesome teacher did all the work and is selling the product for $2.00. How could I not buy it!? 

Now that I just saved a ton of time, I am even more excited to try this out. Here are my plans for the week:

I plan on sticking the labels under the far right column (when I print them out). This will be helpful to me and to anyone looking at my plans.  Makes sense, right? 

I will edit this post and add a new picture of my plans as soon as I get to school tomorrow and see my plan book! :)

Updated with a picture straight from my desk! ;)

I just picked two standards for now although we are honestly covering a ton this week!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Positive Points Monday! My attempt at being a "Positive Polly!"

Today I was excited to find a new linky that is exactly what I am trying this year. Maybe it is the old college cheerleader in me, but I am going to stay positive this year. There are so many things to be grateful for in life, I will not let the negative drag me that? Even though I've only had the kids for 1.5 days last week, I am ready for a positive, meaningful, consistent year! Doesn't that sound refreshing? So I'm linking up with Sarah from Permanently Primary for:

I mean seriously, this button is just too cute NOT to link up with!

I have co-taught special education class with an amazing teacher friend for five years (I think) and for the past two years she has been push in. She always jokes around with me and calls me Positive Polly. It always makes me laugh and reminds me of the power of positivity. So...

On the first day of school I sent home a parent information form asking a million questions and also for a parent's email address. I gave it as "homework" and guess what? I got them all back the next day, except ONE! I was psyched. I figured out how to make a parent "group" in my email and on Friday I created our first classroom newsletter using my editable pack of newsletters in my TpT store.

One of my goals this year is to make parent/home contact easy, consistent, and worthwhile. I couldn't believe how easy it was to type up some news, save it as a PDF, and email every one of my 47 student's parents! I am especially excited because I got a ton of excited emails from parents thanking me for opening the line of communication and also thanking me for helping their child adjust while have an amazing first few days at the new school. My goal is to put my newsletter out every Friday. I even included some pictures. I decided the best idea is not to use student faces in the pictures. Then I won't accidentally use the same child every week and I won't have to worry about not using pictures of other children.

 I love my staff, love routines, and love helping others. Seriously I work with my best friends. My partner (who teaches Math/Science/SS to "our" kids) is like my school mother and is amazing. I'm happy to be back with all of my friends. I'm happy to be back in a routine with my family, it makes me feel like I have a purpose. Now I just need to think of something other quick meals to put into our weekly rotation, fit in some exercise during the week, and keep up with the house cleaning and my life will be complete! :)

Our school year is going to be fun. We have a new principal this year who has a ton of new ideas. We are going to have after school activities! I am teaching dance/cheerleading and we will even get to preform at the school PRIDE assemblies. I already have our music mixed and burnt to a CD and am ready to go. We have a bunch of fun school events coming up, the first one being a Reading Camp out! Doesn't that sound fun? Teachers are volunteering to read (in tents) to students during a BBQ and while the parents are in an in-service learning how to help with the CCSS implementation of reading at home. I think this sounds great and is involving everyone. Little things like this really make our school stand out, give the students a sense of pride for their school, open more communication between school/home, and get the students away from the TV at night. Anyone else do any fun events at their school? I'd love to know what other schools do for fun!

See, wasn't that therapeutic? By focusing on the positive I am ready for another great week. Did I mention we not only have Monday off, but also Thursday! :)!!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I'm back and taking part in an AWESOME giveaway/blog hop!

I'm back!!!! Sort of... That's TWO posts in two days! Maybe I can make this a routine. lol. It has been insanely hectic around here trying to get back in the swing of things! School started for me (and my husband),  my daughter started Pre-K, and daycare has been exhausting my 1.5 year old son (not that I am complaining). Seriously we (my husband and I teach in the same district so commute the 40min drive together) get home from work at 5, I make dinner, we eat, give baths, put kids to bed, then I work on the computer until bedtime. If my kids aren't in bed by 7PM, our 5AM wake up is horrible and everyone is grumpy. 

I'm looking forward to relaxing and actually seeing my family this weekend. This week has been tough. I wore an adorable dress and new wedges to school on Wednesday, for the first day. When I got to the end of the long hallway and stepping into my classroom, my shoe BROKE. Seriously, like right in half and I almost broke my ankle. Thank goodness my amazing friend/reading specialist walked in to bring me a "back to school present" (I know, isn't she the best!?) and caught me having a nervous break down glue gunning my shoe together. She grabbed her spare pair of sandals, that happened to be my size and saved the day! 

Thursday my camera broke and I didn't realize it until I took pictures of my daughter going to Pre-K for the first time. I seriously was like mammarotzi with the photographs AND NOT ONE OF THEM CAME OUT! They were all WAY over exposed. :( Luckily, daycare took pictures of her getting on the bus and I was there to take pictures of her getting off the bus. 

We have a new principal and a new schedule this year. We are actually going to have a WIN period. It is a intervention/enrichment block where we can work on projects! I'm so excited!

If you are still reading, I promise it will get better. So I am linking up with the cuties over at Collaboration Cuties.

If you haven't heard of them by now, you really need to check them out. Not only did one of them just make Teacher of the Year for 2013, but they are so inspiring and CREATIVE! This linky is an amazing resource that keeps track of different texts for teachers to use as mentor texts.

I am going to tell you about one of my favorite texts to read in 4th grade. Instead of a picture book, it is a chapter book, Riding Freedom, by Pam Munoz Ryan.

In this fast-paced, courageous, and inspiring story, readers adventure with Charlotte Parkhurst as she first finds work as a stable hand, becomes a famous stage-coach driver (performing brave feats and outwitting bandits), and ultimately settles out west on the farm she'd dreamed of having since childhood. It wasn't until after her death that anyone discovered she was a woman.

I love this text for so many reasons. Here are my top five...

#1. Most importantly is it is always something new for my students. I haven't had one 4th grader who has already read it!
#2. It is based on a true story and is an entertaining mix of fiction and nonfiction and can easily be related to our Social Studies curriculum!
#3. The vocabulary, voice, and description are all phenomenal THROUGHOUT the book.
#4. It is totally unpredictable. My 4th graders don't want to put it down because each page is full of suspense. 
 #5. We created a TON of activities and CCSS related questions for this novel. It is a great text for guided reading groups or even whole class. We love teaching how to use text evidence in written responses while using our questions for this text.

Check out our complete literary unit for Riding Freedom in our TPT store!

For the last part of this wicked long post, I MUST tell you about this awesome giveaway/blog hop that is going on right now! It is to celebrate 1000 followers with Fifth in the Middle & Where the Wild Things Learn!

How awesome is that accomplishment!? To start the blog hop, see the AMAZING PRIZES, and understand how to play along, head over to Diane's blog here!

The prizes are so awesome that even I am going to enter! I hope you are off to a great school year and are having better luck than me!! lol 

 Check the "Next Blog" button to get to my good friend Sabra's blog, which is the next stop on this HOP! Have an amazing extra day off tomorrow! :)