Saturday, January 25, 2014

Freebie: Current events, Informational Text, Note Taking, and Speaking skills! Motivation Linky!

It is a coooolllld Saturday here in Connecticut, as we wait for more snow. I agree with my friends though, if it is going to be this cold, it mind as well snow. I am excited to link up with the sweetest and most stylish teacher I know, Joanne, over at Head Over Heels for Teaching. As soon as I thought of this idea, I knew today would be the perfect way to blog about it

**I am not advertising for the company, I just wanted to share my excited find with my teacher friends!**

I was inspired last weekend by a new app I came across on the educational freebie page. It is called News-O-Matic. It is absolutely perfect for the classroom and I am still shocked it was free. It is a daily newsfeed for kids. It highlights multiple genres per day from sports to politics. It breaks down news stories into kid friendly language and interesting topics. The stories are obviously true extremely interesting. The app is full of games, contests, ways to write to the publisher, and even past articles.

**Edited to announce: There is a subscription fee for your students to be able to use ALL of the features. It is $14.99. So far we have been using the free version, but I think I might upgrade**

This week I was excited to pilot my new idea. If you have been reading my blog posts lately, you know how hard my class has been working on their writing skills. For us, school starts at 8:20, but students can come into the room at 7:50. Until then, they sit in the Cafe and read quietly. Instead of giving morning work this week, I gave some students iPads and this work sheet. (You can click on the image to download it for free!)
 I let students work by themselves, in partners, or in groups to read the current events on the app. They were then responsible to fill out the worksheet together and be ready to report to the class at our morning meeting. This turned out AMAZING for so many reasons!

  • A few students started with iPads, but once others arrived they quickly unpacked and went to join a friend or group. 
  • EVERYONE was engaged and actively reading informational text. 
  • There were interesting articles for everyone from sports to politics. 
  • Kids were actually discussing and coming to a consensus in groups as to what to write down on the paper before sharing it with the class. 
  • At share time, if two groups presented the same article, the groups piggybacked off of other group's thoughts ON THEIR OWN. (A major milestone!)
  • The questions that the students came up with on the sheet were amazing! Many of them sent them in to "Russ" on the "Write to Russ" section. 
As you can clearly tell the students were motivated, eager to learn, and enjoyed reading the news.

Who would have thought that the shy little boy that struggles with reading and writing would ask to work alone and present his thoughts to the class on "Working for Peace in Syria??" Turns out he is really interested in promoting peace and what the United States can do to help! I was blown away with his enthusiasm and background knowledge on the topic. 

When the groups presented to the class we reflected the app on the SmartBoard and everyone learned together. Seriously, it was amazing experience and the kids are already asking if we can continue this new idea next week! 

Try this out! I guarantee you and your students will learn from this app.  This quick activity hits so many standards for CCSS and CCR that I do not feel guilty giving up 10-15 minutes a day for this new learning.

Happy Saturday! I am off the grocery store!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Honest to blog...TGIF & Five for Friday!

I am happy to be linking up today with  Doodle Bugs Teaching especially since it means it is time for the weekend. I know my kids were in bed by 7pm tonight, my house looks like it was shaken upside down, and my eyelids are about to hit the floor! I don't know why I am so exhausted. We had Monday off, Tuesday school was 8:30-11:30 (due to snow), and Wednesday was a two-hour delay. We've had a busy, but fast, few days!

I couldn't be MORE excited to welcome the newest little Pinkadot! Robyn had (her second) baby girl today, Harper Elizabeth. She has the cutest little face I've ever seen. 

Welcome Harper! I hope the next three months fly by, so I can have Robyn back in school with me!!

One of my other bff's in school is also out. Liz had foot surgery and will be out of school recuperating for a little while. She is excited to join the blogging community. She is an absolutely amazing teacher with the kindest heart you've ever met. She leads our school's "Be Kind" program, which I'm sure she will blog about soon. She is super smart and always willing to try something new! I'd love for you to check out her blog and give her a warm welcome!

My FIRST time receiving flowers at work! Someone was grateful for me and they made my day! I've never received flowers at school before and KNEW they weren't from my husband. hahaha

 We worked really hard on narratives this week. We continued using my short one page stories to edit and revise with as practice and boy did they work! The writing stamina not only improved in my classroom, but also the students are now writing with confidence! I LOVE seeing my students excited to write. That excitement is now with almost all of my students. They loved hearing the original story, revising it to make it their own, and sharing their finished work. It turned into almost a contest to see which student had the best rewritten piece of work. This is one of my favorite stories, from today. The girl even made the puppy learn a lesson in the end!

I also added five more, one page, stories into this product! My students wanted more, so it now contains 10! Check it out by clicking on the product below!

I'm saving the most exciting news for last! My Donors Choose Project was funded!!!! I received a class set of electronic spellers this week!!! Do you know how awesome this was? It was like Christmas for each student in the classroom. We ripped the packages open and put them to use, right away. We had table war races to see which table could spell the hardest words, the fastest, we practiced on our ten minute quick writes, and we practiced with partners. It is safe to say, my students now know how to use their new tool very well. I was sad to see that I must have requested the wrong product because I wanted spelling/dictionary/thesaurus....but these are just word checkers.

I was so excited to see the students taking the initiative to revise their work with the spell checkers and colored pens. I think all the hard work I've been doing to encourage students to take a look back at their work instead of calling it "done"... is working.

Have an enjoyable weekend friends! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tried it Tuesday: Revising Tuesday! Time to link up with one of my favorite friends, Holly, for her Tried It Tuesday

This week we've been trying to understand the difference between editing and revising and why authors use these skills. I have many students who write something, pass it in, and never look at it again. We talked about how revising is actually revisiting the work, rethinking, and making alterations. 

We started off by reading Birthday Bunny, in PDF format, for free, here. I asked the students to rate the story on the scale from 1-5 (1 being the worst book ever). Most students gave it a 1 or 2 during the check points in the story. We predicted what was going to happen and we were all right. I then made up a story about a boy named Alex and how he received that book for his birthday from his Grandmother. His mother made him keep the book since it was a gift from his grandmother, but as he grew older he didn't appreciate the story. He decided to revise the book to be more age appropriate. When he revised the story, it looked like...THIS...
When I showed the book to the kids they freaked out (It's also available online for free on the website). The students were laughing, cheering, and couldn't wait to see the rest of the book. Some students thought I did it to the book, but I assured them Alex was real and did this on his own. As we read the book together, I had the students check in with the same book rating scale. They all LOVED it. They loved how Alex crossed out and added to the pictures and sentences to make a completely different story. They then understood the point of revising and sometimes when you take a second look at the same story, you can create something totally different and BETTER. 

 How could you not love these new illustrations and cross outs!?

They wanted to revise like Alex, so I handed out a short one page story I wrote. Together we read the story and everyone individually revised the story. After about ten minutes they met with partners and shared their "new" story. Students were encouraged to add figurative language to the story, add strong word choice, and continue the story onto the back page. Some students did not want to stop writing and asked to take it home for homework to continue! 

I do have some reluctant writers in the classroom, but they now say this was one of their favorite activities! Look how much extra the girls above wrote!!

I did allow the students to use colored pens to revise the story. This was also a great motivator because anything is cooler than a pencil when you are in fourth grade! ;) Since they loved this so much, we've done a few of them throughout the week. Each day the "new" story was better than the last. My students are really getting the hang of incorporating figurative language into their writing and their vocabulary is improving amazingly!

 I'm so glad I did this with my students because I've been seeing students take the time to actually revise their work now. We went back to some quick writes, poems, and even notebook responses, read them over and revised. I am excited to see how they do on their narrative coming up for our district writing prompt! 

Check out my Revise the Story packet on TPT! Right now there are five one-page stories included in the packet, but I will be adding to it as soon as I finished my report cards! :)

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Day Our Way- A schedule linky!

We are linking up with the lovely Amelia from Where the Wild Things Learn for her linky

We get a lot of questions as to how our day runs, and so with this linky, you can see how several classroom schedules go.

I teach ELA to (2) groups of kiddos. Each group is around 25 students, so I see about 50 students each day. 

As you can see from my schedule this year, basically all of my teaching is done before lunch. This has worked great so far. I do have trouble on Monday mornings with some sleepy heads getting into the swing of things, but I'm working on ways to engage them from the start. My schedule is pretty much the same as the above everyday, but on T/TH we switch first thin in the morning and do not have PLC/Activity Period. I absolutely love the idea of having a morning meeting similar to the Collaboration Cuties. I am considering a quick weekly meeting on Monday/Tuesday, so both classes will get to start off their day like this. I think it is a great way to build the classroom community, work on listening and speaking skills, and allow students time to adjust to being back in school (especially after a long break or weekend).

So, that's what my day looks like. I hope this gives you a little peek at my school life.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

This made my day...& Peek at my Week!

If you have been reading my blog for the past few weeks, you know my odd love for sloths. My sloth lessons are continuing this week in my lesson plans when my students and I will write descriptive passages, narrative animal dialogues to each other's favorite animals, and practice our editing and revising skills on my sample sloth narrative. Honestly, the students love my weird fascination with sloths. They laugh at me and joke, but seriously...they love them too.

It made my night tonight when Melissa, from Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late, commented on my last blog post, that I remind her of Kristen Bell on Ellen with my love of sloths. I didn't know what she meant so I had to check out the YouTube clip. Before seeing the clip, I loved Kristen from watching one of my favorite movies, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, back in 2008, but more recently she plays Anna in Frozen. She has an AMAZING voice (believe me, my four year old blasts the soundtrack 24/7) so this video is just the cherry on the sundae for me.

Wasn't that awesome? I think I would react the same way. In fact, I just showed it to my husband and asked if we could get a sloth set up in the house. His response was not to my favor.

Besides sharing more sloth ideas, I wanted to link up with Mrs. Laffin's Laghings Peek at my Week.

with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings and her Peek at My Week linky! - See more at:
with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings and her Peek at My Week linky! - See more at:
with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings and her Peek at My Week linky! - See more at:

Check out my model narrative for my students. We are going to look at it together to see how I combined nonfiction facts into the story, used creative word choice, included dialogue, and followed my plan. We are also continuing our work with editing and revising (so there might be some mistakes in this "first draft" for the students to point out.

I really love teaching writing.

Have you ever heard of Battle Bunny?

I will be back after I teach this week's lesson to tell you how I used this awesome book in my classroom. I am so excited, but don't want to spoil the surprise! :) 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Five for FREEZING Friday!

Hello friends! We had an amazing surprise this morning and woke up to a few inches of snow and a phone call giving us a two hour delay. It's been a loooonnnnggggg first week back to school after winter break between everyone being so sleepy and teachers being stressed. 

I couldn't be happier to have a nice weekend with nothing planned. I am linking up for one of my favorite posts...Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching
In my last post, on Sunday, I blogged about my lesson plans for the week. I was shocked that I actually stuck to my lesson plans! Everything worked out SO well and I couldn't have been more proud of my students. We started off on Monday morning (after almost 17 days off for winter break) reading Pinduli, by Janell Cannon. While I read this amazing, vocabulary enriched book, my 24 students struggled to stay awake and pay attention. Yawns filled the room and class participation was low. In true teacher luck, the Principal and other admins came into my room for a "walk through" (observation). Instead of fighting my students and stopping after every page for a discussion, prediction, or share...I read straight through the book (something I rarely do). By the end, the students were finally waking up. They helped me create a chart displaying the nonfiction facts we learned about hyenas from reading Pinduli. We then went back to many pages in the book and really looked at the author's writing style, word choice, and vocabulary. I was thrilled that a few students pointed out some examples of author's craft and the amazing words that the author chose to use in the story. This led us to some rich discussions about why the author chose to write about a hyena.  Couldn't she have written Pinduli about a skunk, horse, or even a cat? Would the story have turned out the same? Did the author portray the hyena the way other hyenas are portrayed in other books or movies? Day one was a slow success...well after the kids woke up.

On Tuesday, the kids were getting back into their routine and excited to learn. I had one of my favorite lessons planned out about sloths! The kids get excited when I am excited, so they were ready to learn about sloths. Together we read a nonfiction article about sloths. This is always fun because the students normally know NOTHING about this odd creature and the facts they find out are amazing. We looked at diagrams of the layers of trees in the rain forest where sloths live and even watched them fall out of trees into rivers on YouTube to help us visualize the animal better. Next,  we took notes from the nonfiction article on the easel.

After taking the notes on Tuesday, we went over to the tech carpet to work on the Smart Board on Wednesday. Together we seamlessly incorporated the nonfiction facts into a poem about a sloth. I also wanted to students to be sure they were creative with their word choice and added multiple examples of figurative language. We talked about how poems can rhyme and how stanzas are set up. We read the poem OVER AND OVER and changed words and whole lines. I made sure they understood Pinduli was our mentor text and we were trying to write like Janell Cannon. We did not just want to make a list of nonfiction facts, we wanted to be subtle about incorporating the facts. We worked on editing and revising and making sure we portrayed the sloth as the true animal from the nonfiction facts we learned. I am no poet, but I LOVE how our class models came out. Since I have two classes, there are two poems. 

On Thursday, the students were eager to write their own poems. I gave the students groups and each group had a different animal. Each group was given a differentiated nonfiction article to read and take notes on. The students were able to use chart paper, highlighters, and markers to mark up the text and take notes. I find this a huge motivator with my fourth graders. They love being able to write with markers and especially on giant chart paper. I think it is the best for group work so that everyone can see the paper clearly and it isn't just in front of one person's face. The students were SO engaged in this activity. Even my struggling readers were doing an amazing job collaborating with their group. 

I know it is January, but my students have come SOOOOO far with their academic conversations. One of my favorite conversations during this lesson was with a group that included one girl and four boys. The boys wanted to make their poem funny and have their animal, a panda, fall from a tree and drown in the river below. (I know not funny, but these are 4th grade boys!) The girl said, "We just read and wrote down the fact that pandas are excellent swimmers. Why would we make him drown? That wouldn't portray the animal the correct way!" Halleluiah! She understood the essential question to this unit! How do authors potray animals in writing? When I hear the excitement in their voice over the content, lesson, or opinion they are sharing, I want to run over and hug them.  When the groups finished their notes, they were able to start their poem on another piece of chart paper.

Friday was so much fun in my class. The groups were able to log on to the Chrome Books, open Google Docs and type their poem. They shared their poem via Google Docs with me and we edited, revised, and conversed digitally. The students always think it is amazing that we can have a conversation without talking. I also think it is funny as I silently type a sentence I hear it being read out loud on the other side of the room. Students then presented their poems to the class. The class gave feedback as to what facts they learned about the animal through their poem, if they understood the figurative language being used and about the word choice. As the authors of the poems, the students were able to answer questions about their writing and seriously the pride just radiated off of their faces. What an amazing week to be a teacher. Here are a few of my favorite poems. 

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Joint Giveaway Contribution!

Today I am helping with {Joanne} and {Holly's} 1K giveaway celebration!

I am giving away one of my newest products, Fix the Mistakes Around the Room: Valetine's Day Frog Edition! 

Seriously this product couldn't be any cuter. The boys in my classroom even appreciate the clip art. I created this because I am always looking for ways to give my 4th graders extra editing practice. However, editing can be pretty b.o.r.i.n.g! I have some wiggley 4th graders that will do ANYTHING to get out of their seats. Instead of working against it, I am working with that idea. 
I made this product with a set of ten task cards and 1/2 page posters. What I do is print, laminate, and post the ten posters around the room. The students then have the answer sheet and a clipboard. When they finish their daily work, they walk up to different posters, read the sentence, find the editing mistakes, and write the sentence correctly on their recording sheet. 

This sounds simple, but you would think my students were getting paid to do this activity. Their behavior is perfect, they are motivated, and are doing amazing job academically. To make this even more fun, I named the cute little frog in the clip art, Freddy. The posters actually tell a story of Freddy's Valentine's Day. My students are now addicted to Freddy the Frog and always ask me for updates on him and to do another around-the-room exercise. I see more of these activities in my near future! :)

If this sounds like something your students would like, check it out at my TPT store for more information and be sure to ENTER the Rafflecopter on {Joanne} and {Holly's} blog! Good luck!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pinduli {Language Arts Must Read Mentor Text Linky!}

Today I am linking up with the Collaboration Cuties and their awesome Must Read Mentor Text Linky. I love reading the posts in this linky because nothing is better than finding a great book and already having a lesson plan idea to go with it. I've found so many great suggestions from this link up and normally head over to Amazon to purchase the books right away.

I am also double dipping and linking up with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings and her Peek at My Week linky!

So tomorrow, Monday, will be our first FULL day in school since December 20th. We had school on Thursday, but only for three hours since a storm was coming. Friday was a snow day and that brought us to a great three day weekend! I'm not looking forward to waking up at 5AM tomorrow and I'm sure it will be a long week. The good news is that I am all planned and ready to go for the week. I am looking forward to teaching so I can take pictures and blog about my new ideas and projects we are starting. 

We are in the middle of our Animal Unit and about to jump into a Janell Cannon book study. Are you a fan of her animal books? I sure am! I love that she incorporates so much nonfiction into her fictional stories. That is EXACTLY what I am going to be talking to my students about (and doing maybe next week). We are going to be writing our own narratives, after researching animals, and incorporating nonfiction facts into the stories. 

I am starting off with Pinduli. Who would have ever thought to write a book about a hyena? Cannon's other books are also about animals who wouldn't be thought of as cute and popular, but after reading her stories, the characters have a special place in your heart.  

Amazon's summary of this book is perfect: Pinduli's mama has always told her that she's the most beautiful hyena ever. But Dog, Lion, and Zebra don't think so. Why else would they make her feel so rotten about her big ears, her fuzzy mane, and her wiggly stripes? Poor Pinduli just wants to disappear--and she tries everything she can think of to make that happen. Yet nothing goes her way. Nothing, that is, until a case of mistaken identity lets her show the creatures of the African savanna how a few tiny words--bad or good--can create something enormous.

We are going to be reading Pinduli together and charting the nonfiction information we learn about hyenas in the story. We are going to notice how Janell Cannon portrays hyenas through her writing and if that is normal or odd? We will point out the character traits we learned about hyenas and look for figurative language throughout the book.

As the week progresses, we are going to be reading a nonfiction article I wrote about sloths. (They are one of my favorite odd animals and I love teaching about them because my students are always shocked at the information they learn.) Does anyone else love sloths, like me? lol We will close read the text for multiple purposes, look for character traits that can describe a sloth, and create examples of figurative language to show the character traits. We will then be writing poems using figurative language and incorporating the nonfiction information into the poem.

I know this sounds like a lot and probably confusing, but I promise it will make sense.

Once I model this activity with the sloth, the students will be split into groups. Together they will read different nonfiction articles (written by me), pull out information and character traits and create examples of figurative language. Each group is responsible for constructing a poem to present to the class.  It will sort of be like a jigsaw because once the groups present their poem, each student will have a better understanding of that animal. This will also help us understand figurative language as a reader and author.
It is going to be a busy week, but I am excited to come back and tell you how it went. I actually put my lessons into packets for TPT, so just in case you'd like to try this head over to our TPT store.