Monday, February 24, 2014

The 3 Million Teachers Strong TPT Sale!

We are so excited to be part of such an amazing teacher community and want to congratulate everyone involved with TPT for involving, helping, inspiring, and coaching over 3 MILLION teachers from all over the world.  If you haven't heard yet, TPT is celebrating this HUGE accomplishment with a sale on February 27th & February 28th!

I know my store is up and ready for the sale! I am so excited to empty out (my currently over flowing) wishlist and prepare for the rest of the school year!

Speaking of our store, we recently added some great new products!

These "Inferring Thinking Stem Posters" are not only bright and colorful, but SO useful in the classroom. They have helped my students use academic language in conversations and in their writing.

Who's ready for Earth Day? I know this is another holiday, worth talking about, that somehow gets overlooked with the hustle and bustle of everything going on in the classroom. Don't worry, this packet will take care of information and activities for your students. This is an adorable creative Earth Day Booklet. Not only does it include nonfiction text explaining Earth Day, but it also includes multiple activities for the students to complete.

My favorite item and actually one of the top wishlisted items is our Revolutionaries from the Past unit! This packet is jam packed with nonfiction texts and activities to incorporate into your curriculum. I also have free foldables that go with this unit on the blog!

Our other favorite and most wishlisted item is something we have been using daily in the classroom. This packet full of Outstanding Opinion Activities is perfect for whole class, small group, or one on one support. It is differentiated and includes texts, interactive activities, and even an opinion rubric.
And last, but not least, is our number one wishlisted item, our awesome Reward Coupons. We have had so much luck using these in our classrooms and believe it or not, the students choose the coupons OVER the prizes in the prize box!

So be sure to stop by Pinkadots Elementary on TPT and see what else we have to offer!

Feel free to use the flashy sale button, link up to the InLinkz below with your blog or TPT store, and grab the HTML code to help spread news of this wonderful sale!

Get the InLinkz code to add this linky to your blog here!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Five for a rainy Friday and a few fabulous Freebies!

Yes, you read that right! We actually had a thunder and lightning storm tonight over our two feet of snow! It's been raining all day! This is a huge change from the constant snow, but don't worry, CT is supposed to get hit with another storm next Wednesday. We already have a new revised school calender marking our last day on June 23rd! Ugh! Although we only had school Wednesday, a half day Thursday due to ice on roads, and a full day today, we've done a lot of work. I'm excited to link up with Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday!

On Wednesday, we were finally able to celebrate Valentine's Day in the classroom and the kids couldn't have been more excited. It felt like Halloween with the amount of candy I received! 

I am pretty obsessed with my new learning board. I call it a "learning board" because we are learning how to voice out inferences and these are the perfect sentence starters for students to practice conversations with! These Inference Thinking Stems are bright, owl themed, and fun to look at! My students are now doing amazing with this skill.

We continued learning about Revolutionaries and finished up MLK, Jr. this week! I made some fun foldables that we tested out in the classroom! If you'd like to grab them for free, click on the picture below! In the first example, the students found character traits for MLK, Jr. and supported the traits with text evidence from his biography, timeline, or speech. We are constantly practicing going back into the text to support our thinking with evidence so this activity worked out well. We were also using multiple sources to gather information!

I talked about how we carefully close read MLK, Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech last week, but the next activity was a great extension. I found this wonderful MLK, Jr. timeline on I'm Lovin Lit's AWESOME blog, and knew it would look great in our notebooks. The students did an excellent job putting together the timeline and they were amazed with how much he accomplished in his short life. 

We tried interactive note taking this week with a nonfiction article on Rosa Parks. My favorite TPT product, the Revolutionaries from the Past/Black History Month Unit is full of nonfiction articles and activities to supplement any lesson!

My students LOVED being able to illustrate the main idea of each paragraph and create a caption for their pictures. This was an amazing motivator for my reluctant workers and the pictures couldn't be cuter!

We also worked on point of view this week. We read two awesome books recommended by one of my BBB's, AMC! She suggested using Back of the Bus & Rosa's Bus to teach POV, so I added them to my Amazon list and bought them right away. It fit perfectly with my current unit and they were PERFECT books for this activity. I decided I wanted my students to portray themselves as the little boy who watched Rosa get arrested and also as Rosa... by writing journal entries. Since I was feeling creative, I made accordion foldables. I like the way this turned out because on the same notebook page you can clearly see the different point of views! (These are also available for a freebie, by clicking on the picture!)
I certainly threw a lot into these few short days, but I was impressed with the level of engagement and motivation in my classroom. My students really thrived on my interactive approach of teaching. 

A few of my favorite quotes this week were...

"I can't wait to take my reading notebook home this summer, when I get bored, I am just going to reread it!" 

"My parents are going to freak out when they see this at April conferences!!"

"You must have made this activity! It's fun and pretty!"

Oh ya, I bought some new shoes this week too and am SO excited for them to come in. They will be GREAT once the snow is gone...Have you heard of Zulily? The website has amazing deals and just happened to feature Toms! I bought two pairs for me and one pair for my 4yr old! :)

Before I go, I had to remind you of the awesome deal going on over at Educents!

You can get a ton of activities for only $10.99! 

Have a great weekend! :)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Organization, bright colors, butterflies, & FREE.. What more is there to want in life?

I am stopping in really quick to show you my newest love, my bright desktop! Since we are currently under two feet of snow and getting more on Tuesday, I needed something colorful in my life. I figured I could start with my computer. My friend over at Mrs. 3rd Grade posted her adorable new desktop background on Instagram and I was inspired. 

So this month I created...

It looks so much prettier when it is on the desktop, but I love it! :) 
If you'd like to test it out, click on it for a free download. Let me know what you think! :) 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Falling in Love w/ Close Reading Part 2!

Well, yesterday we were unable to finish the lesson because the kids were so wrapped up in their amazing conversations over the word choice used in MLK's speech. Their inferences and interpretations were amazing, but still I was nervous for day two. Kara and I were set to co-teach the rest of the lesson today and believe it or not, it actually happened. The goal of today's lesson was to revise the main idea sentence to match the tones and emotions of the speech.  We started by reviewing the chart of main idea sentences the students came up with yesterday, along with the chart of emotional words used in the speech. Kara led the class to understand that although we charted everyone's main ideas, they basically all mean the same thing. The class chose a main idea sentence to revise: Everyone is not treated equal. We discussed the emotions that this sentence made us feel and the class agreed it was an angry sentence. Looking at our color coded chart we discussed all the words circled in blue (those were color coded for angry). Together we came up with a paragraph using the words to help explain the sentence and turn it into a paragraph. We started pretty basic to give the students a chance to go above and beyond.

Together we came up with, "During the time of MLK, African-Americans were not treated equally. They experienced injustices that made them feel not equal and angry. African-Americans felt they were living in captivity just like slaves. This is WRONG. Everyone deserves freedom.

We read through this paragraph a few times and discussed why it was better than the lonely main idea sentence we came up with yesterday. The students all agreed they felt the emotions, just by reading the paragraph and the words also helped support the main idea. We circled all the words that led us to feeling the emotions and checked they all related to being angry.

Next, the students turned to their talking partners, held conversations about how to create their own paragraphs and chose their starting main idea sentence. We made sure they all did a lot of talking before writing. At this point I thought it was going to be difficult for the students, but I was pleasantly surprised. Besides the students being SO obsessed with the content, they were really working hard. 

Kara and I bounced around the room and met with all the groups. We gave them feedback and shared some examples out loud. Kara even challenged some students to incorporate multiple emotions into their paragraph and we discussed how this could be done (see the examples below). Some students still need to finish, but the students who did finish, did awesome! 

When Kara went off to her next meeting, I repeated the lesson with my second class, the same way. They ended up choosing the same main idea sentence to revise, but together our paragraph came out different, but still wonderful. 

During the 1960s African-Americans were experiencing injustice. They felt like they were living in captivity while not having a chance to be free. Their ancestors were slaves who felt that they withered away into history unappreciated. While white people enjoyed life, they African-Americans lived in their shadow with horrible lives.

 This class also did amazing with their responses and like the first class, were full of pride! 
The E.P. = The Emancipation Proclamation.

This was my favorite response! I was seriously impressed! 

So I would absolutely say these past few days were an amazing success in the classroom. I was pushed (in a good way) to jump out of my comfort zone and try something new while having the support from my coach. This was only one chapter of the book, so I am excited to work through the rest of it. Am I Falling in Love with Close Reading? Well, if my class has fun, is highly engaged, and is learning... then I would have to say, YES! Excellent and realistic title for a great book! I think that's exactly how the coaching program is supposed to work. We work well together as a team and I am already thinking of next week's lesson to impress her with! 

If you haven't already entered, don't forget to enter for a chance to win your own copy of Falling in Love with Close Reading by filling out the form below!

If you missed part one of this lesson, check out the post about the awesome book, Falling in Love with Close Reading! HERE!

If you'd like to take a look at what we worked with this week, check out my Google Doc, HERE

Kara also blogged about a few more lessons using the Falling in Love with Close Reading book as a mentor text, HERE

It looks like it might be a snowy rest of the week for us and it is a good thing because I am EXHAUSTED! :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Am I REALLY Falling in Love with Close Reading? Tuesday Tried It!GIVEAWAY!

I'm here, just like I said I would to link up with the awesome blogger, Holly, at Fourth Grade Flipper for her linky, Tried it Tuesday! Yesterday, I explained that I was going to watch my LIT coach, Kara, use a new close reading strategy, but with schedule conflicts, I actually had to teach the lesson before she was able to come into the classroom.We were then able to co-teach the other class. I was so nervous because I didn't feel comfortable with this new strategy and was confused as to the point of the lesson, but I couldn't have been more wrong.

Close Reading the famous "I Have a Dream" speech is no easy task no matter what strategy you choose, but while focusing on the word choice lesson from Falling in Love with Close Reading, it proved to be hard, but meaningful! Obviously MKL's speech is very long, so I decided to shorten the speech into three sections. Today we focused on just the introduction, which the students were unfamiliar with. I copied it, cut it to fit into their notebooks, and began the lesson. Together we picked a stopping point and read up to that point. We turned and talked to our talking partner about the main idea of the section.

I charted the ideas and we discussed how most of us had the same main idea of the short selection. We then discussed that the author is doing his/her job correctly if everyone gets the same idea from reading/listening to his/her writing. In order to get the audience to interpret a similar meanings, it is all about word choice. Instead of discussing content at this point, I played the song (from youtube), Best Day of My Life, by American Authors. The classes really love when I incorporate music, art, technology, or anything else fun into the lesson, and their reaction was just as expected. I asked the students to discuss with a partner what this song was about and how it made them feel. They came up with words and phrases that supported their answers and it led to a great conversation. I was shocked when the kids started relating the song to MLK and his speech. One student was so excited to realize the song's lyrics said, "I had a dream..." just like MLK's speech! While others discussed and debated that the song could be from MLK's perspective about how if he was alive now, he would "never wanna look back" because the present time is so much better than the past. We also discussed the words that were used to relay the message to the listener and why the song writer chose those words. This only lasted a few minutes, but was very beneficial, got the kids engaged, and served a strong purpose.

From there we selected words that stood out in MLK's speech and highlighted them in the text. I charted the words as the students told me their choices. There are certain steps to follow while using this strategy from Falling in Love with Close Reading and the next step is categorizing words. We looked for words that provoked strong emotions, strong images, and clear ideas. The first emotion that was brought up was anger. We color coated all the words that brought up that emotion in blue and continued to categorize until all the words were used. Some words were sorted through whole group, partners, and individual thinking. We also learned that some words could fit into multiple categories as long as you could explain why. This may sound like something simple, but I was BLOWN AWAY by the students understanding of word choice from this activity! Falling in Love with Close Reading gives suggested sentence starters to help students express their thinking while supporting their thoughts with content. ALTHOUGH we only read four sentences up to this point my students learned SO much. We turned and talked, had class discussions, and piggy backed off of each other's ideas. We tried the answer frames as a class and these are some of the responses I heard...

"Some words fit together like injustice and not free and made me feel guilty because African-Americans suffered in history from being enslaved to being forced to attend different schools, they were never looked at as equal."

"Seared, flames, captivity, slaves, and withering are all depressing words because it symbolizes how we had treated African-Americans for hundreds of years and it is wrong."

and my favorite...

"The author could have used 100 years repeatedly, but used "5 score years" because he wanted to connect his speech to Abraham Lincoln's speech about the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of slavery. He wanted to continue Abraham's revolution and finally free African-Americans. MLK appreciated the work Abraham Lincoln did and by "symbolic shadow we stand today" it means that MLK was giving his speech in front of the Lincoln memorial for a historical and meaningful reason."

That last answer was an amazing discussion followed by a ton of students piggy backing off of one another and coming to a conclusion. The students were SO proud of themselves for getting SO much information out of four sentences and were begging to go on, BUT we ran out of time.  We will be continuing with this strategy tomorrow and moving onto a patriotic graphic organizer from Jivey's February & March Graphic Organizer pack to find the message/theme of the whole speech. It will be perfect to work on while celebrating President's Day.

I am so thankful for a supportive coach, Kara, without her forcing me (hahaha) to take this risk, I wouldn't have had this experience. Thanks Kara! :)

Want to check out this new strategy and implement it into your classroom? Since we found this book so helpful, we want to give one away! We are giving away a copy of the new book, Falling in Love with Close Reading! Fill out the Raffle Copter below for your chance to win! :)
Disclaimer:I have no affiliation with this book and they did not ask me to write this post. :)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Falling in Love with Close Reading! Academic Reading...What are you reading? don't know about you, but I am constantly reading new educational books, blogs, and articles in order to become a better teacher. I love learning new strategies and skills to not only help me, but more so help my students. The new book, my literary coach, Kara, and I are reading is Falling in Love with Close Reading, by Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts. Our principal actually bought the whole staff a copy of this book because she loved it so much. I haven't finished it yet, but honestly with a forward from Donalyn Miller, the Book Whisperer, this book HAS to be awesome. Kara has been teaching some lessons from this book in another classroom and tomorrow it is my turn to team teach with her. I am super excited to help the students to "look through the lens" (like the book teaches) and closely read parts of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous speech. 

This is one of the worksheets we will be using in the lesson.  I can't wait to tell you how our lesson went, show off some student work samples, and give you some freebies...tomorrow!

Do you have any suggestions for educational books? I'd love to hear what worked for you.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Five for Friday, Opinion Writing & Chocolate!

Hooray! Friday is here! TGIF!  That means I can link up with Doodle Bugs! I am SO ready for this weekend although I had a lazy week! We got hit with TWO more snow storms here in Connecticut and had Monday off, a two hour delay Tuesday, Wednesday off, a two hour delay Thursday, and ended the week with a full day, today, Friday! Believe it or not, we still worked very hard and accomplished quite a bit. I know I was motivated and excited to teach and I could tell my enthusiasm spread over to my students. I can't take credit for all of the awesomeness in this post because THIS POST, from Jivey, inspired my lesson plans for the week. I fell in love with her new Graphic Organizer Bundle and knew I needed to test them out. I also loved her idea of using chocolate for an opinion essay!

We are currently learning opinion writing. I like to start teaching this type of writing by having the students create opinion paragraphs. Once the paragraphs are well written, supported with text evidence and backed up with opinions, we move into five paragraph essays! I started out reading two different articles about dark chocolate. This was Jivey's idea and boy was it a good one. My student's had NO IDEA that there were pros and cons to eating dark chocolate. I also learned that while making photo copies, if I copy at 85%, the copies fit into our composition notebooks we use for Reading Notebooks. This has been an amazing discovery because I like my students' notebooks to be meaningful for the students to use as a way to look back and reference material. Students read the articles in pairs, while I worked with a small group, and then we all discussed and highlighted the three most important ideas from each article.

Next, we worked with a partner rephrasing the highlighted material into our own words. We made it short and to the point so it would fit with three separate bullet points in our graphic organizer.  I wanted the students to be able to understand both sides of the argument before taking a stance so this graphic organizer was  perfect for my lesson. I also LOVE how the adorable organizer had the objective of my lesson right on the paper! The students loved coloring in the hearts when they finished their work.

When each partnership finished, we came back together as a class and discussed what everyone wrote down for their bullet points. We realized that almost everyone had written the same three facts down for both articles. Phew! This meant they were on the right track! We discussed the text evidence and I called on students to explain why the evidence mattered and what it really meant. We then played the stand up game of "two sides" for a debate. Students who thought dark chocolate was healthy went to one side of the room and students who thought dark chocolate was hazardous went to the other side. The students had a good ol' debate and the kids were allowed to transfer sides at any time, but had to explain why. Once the students were ready to commit to a stance, they stayed in the groups and developed a thesis statement together. I was BLOWN AWAY when one of my strugglers came up with, "Eaten in moderation, the flavonoids can certainly have health benefits." The academic vocabulary and precise language from the article in that thesis statement was amazing! I was so thrilled I gave him a PRIDE sticker and he beamed!

I then showed the students what we were going to write our thoughts down on and they freaked out, like I secretly hoped they would. They are used to me being very creative with lessons, but this was something new. The other night I created an Opinion Paragraph Brochure/Pamphlet to go along with my Opinion Unit. It actually took me three hours because I am a perfectionist and really wanted this to be meaningful, fun, and serve a purpose. I copied the file back to front and enlarged it on legal paper. When I handed it out, I heard a ton of "Ohhs and Ahhs" and "We get to write on THIS!" It made me happy! I taught them how to fold the brochure and they got to work. The best part was that EVERYONE was engaged. At the beginning of the year, I had some students that would cry when trying to write. Clearly a lot has changed.

Aren't they adorable!? When the students finished them, they were ready to use this as a plan to write a five paragraph essay! Next week we will continue to use these as a reference (before bringing them home to show parents) and will write a new opinion piece on a different topic. I also can't wait to test out some more of Jivey's Graphic Organizers!

I am also thrilled to announce that I finally finished updating my Revolutionaries packet, just in time for Black History Month. This awesome nonfiction packet features nonfiction articles and activities for: Ruby Bridges, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Robinson, and Susan B. Anthony. We are just starting this unit and I know I will be using everything in this packet. I created activities for each article, an end of the unit quiz, a biography template pamphlet, and TONS more!  Make sure you check it out! :)

Have a wonderful weekend! :)