Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Spark Motivation: Scanning work to send to parents!'m linking up with my BBB Joanne over at Head Over Heels for Teaching for Spark Motivation Saturday for a quick post. One of my favorite subjects to teach is Writing and I really try to convey that to my students to make them understand that writing can be fun. At the beginning of the year, I always have my new students complete a student interest survey. They rank their subjects in school from favorite to most dreaded. Writing is always either at the top or bottom of everyone's list, students either love it or hate it. I make it my goal to make the results of my end of the year survey with 100% of students to NOT put writing on the bottom of their list. I love making writing fun for the students because honestly, I don't want to read boring essays that lack personality, motivation, and enthusiasm. If you have been following my blog, you know we were working on finishing up opinion writing this week. We finished our "My Favorite Restaurant" essays in one class and are sending them out on Monday (the kids are hoping for a letter/gift card/coupon back- haha)

One of my sweet little boys, that does not have ANY interest in reading OR writing, worked his little tail off this week. He loves food and when he is involved in a conversation about pizza, his face lights up. When he found out he was allowed to write an opinion piece about his favorite restaurant and was actually going to send the restaurant the essay, that was the motivation he needed to start writing. At the beginning of the year, this little guy would erase his letters over and over and not make it past a few choppy sentences before bursting into tears. Check out his essay now! 

Seriously, he wrote this THREE times before he was happy with it. Is it perfect? No, but it is amazing for him and I sure let him know it. I told him that I was so proud of him, I scanned it and emailed it to his mother with an awesome note! He had a huge smile on his face, as he high fived me and said, "Maybe she will let us order from Pizza Hut tonight!?" 

 Our amazing new copy machines scan papers and email them to anyone. It's perfect to email worksheets to myself to project on the Smart Board, but now I just realized (duh!) I can send home student work super fast! I actually keep a lot of writing examples and paper throughout the year, so parents don't get to see EVERYTHING. This is a great way to keep certain parents informed of progress. 

I do send home weekly parent email newsletters, but I am also making this a new goal for the remainder of the year: email one or two parents a sample of their child's work and a positive note, every Friday. I think it will be a great way to motivate my students to see who is going to end up with the positive parent email! :) 

Have a great Saturday friends! :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

April Blog Follower Only Freebie, 5 for Friday, & Poetry!
Hello Friday! Boy am I thrilled to see you! This was the LONGEST week EVER. I am still excited to link up with Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday! 

  I will try to keep this short!

#1. Let's see...If you read my plans from a few days ago, you knew I had a busy week. Well, the blizzard missed us, but my kids and I were sick. I felt like I got hit by a truck and came home Tuesday morning early from school (with the kids) and was out Wednesday. Of course Wednesday night (when I finally started feeling better) my four year old decided her ears NOW hurt. My lovely husband (who is also a teacher) stayed home Thursday and took both kids to the doctor. They both had a double ear infection and sinus infection. My four year old also has the start of pink eye. Joy! So needless to say...we really need the weekend AND some nice weather so we can actually open windows around here!

#2. Because of the above, I was struggling with sub plans. This made me want to FINALLY get my sub binder together. Over a year ago I ended up winning a blog giveaway and won Jivey's Editable Sub Binder, which I finally put to good use. I love the way it came out. It was super easy to fill in and printed out so perfect! I even included four days worth of activities/plans just in case I am out unexpectedly again. There is nothing worse than texting plans with a pounding headache after being up all night!

#3. 8 Days until my birthday! ;)

#4. Don't forget about the great deal at Educents! You can get the huge Poetry Bundle at a super price! It totally hooks you up for April and there are a ton of activities you can even put in your sub folder! ;)

#5. Time for a freebie! Keeping on the poetry theme, I wanted to make my students a menu of choice for writing when they finish their work. I plan on printing and copying this menu at 75% so it fits in the students' writing notebooks. They can go back to it whenever they have a second. I made some challenging and some easy. Overall, I think it looks really fun and I know my students are going to be excited to use it all through April! I hope you like it! :) 

Click on the picture below to grab your own for free! Be sure to leave me some feedback and let me know how your students liked it! :)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Stressful Peek at My Week!

Hello Friends, I am linking up today with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings, the linky that I have a love/hate relationship with. I feel fine with my plans until I start writing about them and see how much I need to get through. I must admit I am stressed out as I look over my lesson plans for the week. We are starting our NEW state (SBAC) tests, have a field trip, and have to get report cards ready...ALL while waiting to see if we are going to get hit with a blizzard. I am really done with snow. We had a few nice days here in Connecticut that seemed to melt most of the snow away, but lately the temperature has been below freezing almost. I just want Spring!!!

Since report cards are going out in the next few weeks and parent/teacher conferences are coming up, we are working on finishing up a lot of projects in the classroom.

We are going to finish, peer edit, publish and SEND our "My Favorite Restaurant" opinion pieces this week. The students begged me to send them to the restaurants in hopes of getting something in return. They are going to spend some time on the I-Pads researching information about where to send their essays when they are complete. I'm hoping for a reply from the local restaurants at least! I actually purchased this opinion packet from Lisa Lilienthal's TPT store over a year ago and forgot about it. It has everything you'd ever need to create this essay with your students.

As you can see we have a lot of work left on this piece. I scanned these plans in through the copy machine and will show them to the students on Monday. (My students all agree ahead of time to let me use their work to teach the class. I never use it to embarrass students and it is always anonymous, unless the student yells, "Hey, THAT'S MINE!" or "Ooops!") Student A: (on the left) followed directions and made a helpful and correct plan. Student B: (on the right) needs some help with this plan because it will not help him when it comes time for writing. Looking at the plans this weekend, also allowed me to form a small group, of students who need to REDO the plan, on Monday. We work a lot on note taking with bullet points so that is a must for a quick and efficient planning. will also be finishing our novel, Riding Freedom, at the perfect time! The last project in my Riding Freedom unit is to create a board game based on details from the book. This is a great low-stress activity to complete during state tests. I think the students are going to have fun and use a ton of skills while creating their game.

My students have been working on idioms for a while now and it is time to take our test on Thursday.
We've been playing, "I have, who has" with Jivey's idiom matching cards, which is included in this Educents Bundle and the students LOVE it. They literally ask to play throughout the day. Since I have two classes, I time them both. I write the best time out of three tries on the board and the other class tries to beat it. We will have a winner at the end of this week. It started off taking the classes SIX minutes to go through around fifty cards and now it is just over THREE minutes for each class. My favorite part is hearing the students use idioms in their everyday discussion. They are so creative.

Seriously if you haven't scooped us this awesome Poetry Packet yet, you need to! 

Oh yes, we also need to finish writing, proof reading, and coloring our poetry journals. We consider this fun work, so the students get to work on it as a reward for finishing other activities. We are going to give them to parents at conferences in a few weeks. They are ALSO included in the Educents Bundle!

We are headed to the State Capitol Building to take a tour for our field trip this week. It is seriously beautiful and there is SO much history involved. We do a ton of walking and even get to take a picnic lunch out on the lawn. We also walk across the street to see the Colt Firearms Museum. Kind of an odd place to take fourth graders, but it is full of American History. 

I have a lot to do in a short amount of time (I feel like I say this a lot), but I am pretty confident we will get through it.

 Question For My Amazing Friends:
I also want to start my new book clubs. How do you hold book clubs in your classroom? Are there any great books the students LOVE? I want something they haven't read yet, at a 4th grade reading level, and age appropriate. Any advice or tips will be appreciated. We are going to start NEXT Wednesday and cycle through two groups each (a push in reading support helper and myself) for thirty minutes each. I'd like to devote Wednesday to book clubs for the rest of the year.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Poetry Month is RIGHT around the corner! Are you ready? April being our (YES, Robyn & I are both April babies!) birthday month, it is also my favorite
month because it is POETRY month. I love teaching, reading, and writing poetry. Unfortunately, it is sometimes hard to teach and hard for kids to understand. When I saw these pictures online, I literally LOL'ed. They are both something one of my students would do, especially if they were struggling with the concept. As you know, figurative language is a huge part of writing. Because of this, it is something I work on throughout the year. This year, my class has really showed a strong ability to incorporate and understand figurative language in everyday discussion and writing. I think my creative and reinforced lessons had a lot to do with it.

Just recently, we just created a St. Patrick's themed hallway bulletin board and incorporated idioms in the poems we wrote! (I will be telling more about this in a later post, but for now, I will show you the picture!) I really like the way it came out and was so proud of my students for showing their understanding of idioms in their poetry.

I've actually had my figurative language bulletin board up all year because I like seeing the students constantly referring to it! It has terms and definitions on the posters.

I really love using task cards in my classroom. It might sound boring, but my students love anything that is competitive and some turn task card time into a competition. Some students quiz each other on them for fun, while other students read through them for fun. I use main different types of task cards in the classroom and in fact, one of our most popular TPT items are our task cards! 

You are in luck...normally a set of 50 task cards are over $5.00 in our TPT store, but some friends and I have teamed up with Educents for an amazing bundle of instant downloads to teach about poetry and it will save you A LOT of money!

Wouldn't it be great to have April planned? Look no further, this bundle will supplement the WHOLE month! I have three products included in this bundle and I am sure your students will love them all!

Those awesome task cards I just told you about...don't you worry, they are included!

My Student Poetry Journal is included too! This packet teaches students how to create TEN different types of fun poems. There are examples written by me and self-explanatory student templates. The pages were created in black & white for easy copying and perfect for student coloring. I can't pick a favorite type of poem to read or write, but these are ten of my (and my student's) favorites! In the past we have created journals with the poems and given them as gifts for Mother's Day or I've even shrunk the pages and added them to writing notebooks for students to continuously refer to.

This year, we are going to have the journals ready to give out at conferences in a few weeks! The poems are coming out GREAT and will look even better when the adorable clip art is colored in! The students LOVE working on their poetry journal and even want to come in for working lunches to finish poems!

I've blogged a few times in the past {here & here} about this awesome Author's Craft Nonfiction Animal Poetry Unit and I'm happy to say it is included in the bundle as well! This unit is great because it comes with nonfiction articles, a giant list of charter traits, directions, student worksheets, and even a rubric!  I would highly suggest trying this out. If you are still hesitant, go read about how I used it in the classroom, here.

See this awesome poster below? Although I introduced it in December, it stays on the wall for reference too! It is included in the Author's Craft Poetry Project and is a great resource!

For a limited time this amazing bundle is actually just $10.99 from Educents which is about 75% off!  It also includes these other great products, so there is sure to be something you love!  

And if you have never purchased from Educents before.. they always have a great deal for your first purchase. {Click here} if you are a first time purchaser to take advantage of a  special offer just for you!  

You can also take peek at some of the other products included in the bundle at any of the links below!

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Have fun teaching everyone!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Workshop Wednesday: What has worked well for me this year!? was excited to be able to give a shout out to a teacher blogger who has helped me out tremendously this year, while linking up with Jivey's Workshop Wednesday. I love the fact that as a pretty creative TPT seller and a hard working teacher, I am able to share what I do in the classroom and inspire others through my blog. It makes me think that all of my hard work and efforts are paying off. This not only benefits the education of my students, but students around the world. As one little small person in this ginormous world, that is pretty inspiring to me!, I need to give a huge shout out to Antonia, from Forkin 4th, for making my life SO much easier. She created this homework bundle to cover 40 weeks of school. I bought it right before school started and copied it for the YEAR. Not only does it make me organized, but it teaches my students to be organized, plan ahead, and learn responsibility. On Monday, I give my students a copy of their homework packet and it is due back on Friday. Each packet includes a nonfiction or fiction based text with three pages of reading comprehension. The reading is repeated throughout the week and read out loud to a family member. This is a great way to get the parents involved with their child's education. We also correct the packet together every Friday. The students actually enjoy this work because they like having everything given to them at once. They can plan out their busy nights knowing they have to do extra homework one night, so there is no homework on another night. This is a great way to make students learn responsibility. It also keeps consistency in my life because I give a packet EVERY week. Because of this, I do not have many students who forget or simply skip out on homework. The readings are fun too. The texts range from a biography on Bruno Mars to fictional story about Lady Gobble, a Lady Gaga obsessed Turkey. The students AND parents enjoy these every week. They are happy, which makes my life happy.

So thanks Antonia for making my life easier! I am excited to see what else I can learn from Jivey's link up.

Honestly though, I've gotten so many awesome ideas from my bloggy friends, and TPT has helped my teaching life, for real! The friendships, support, comments, enthusiasm, and venting I get/give to and from my online friends has made me a better, stronger, happier, and smarter person. So THANK YOU to all of my BBBs, followers, and friends! 

Happy Wednesday! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How do you introduce class novels? New Freebie by special request!

Happy Tuesday! We are in the middle of reading our Spring core novel, Riding Freedom. It is seriously an amazing novel and I think it makes it even better that it isn't super popular, so my students have never heard of it, until I pull it out of the closet. There is nothing worse than being excited to start a novel, showing it to the class, and hearing..."Ohhhhh, I've read that last year, I hate when blah blah blah blah happens." That makes me want to crawl into a hole. I can always guarantee that won't happen with this book. We have a class set of books, so everyone uses their own novel. This makes it very convenient when it comes time to answer text dependent questions., one way that Robyn and I both like to introduce this book is through a "Probable Passage". What is that? Well, it is a fun little "think and guess" activity that generates student curiosity about the novel. You start the activity by finding random vocabulary words throughout the book and writing them in the word bank. Everyone uses the same set of words. (I normally have students complete this in partnerships because it generates great conversations.) Students discuss what words will most likely be a character, setting, problem, something that might be discovered, or if they are REALLY stuck, they can put the word in the unknown word box. In the center they fill out a "Gist Statement" - a simple statement or prediction using the words from all the other boxes about what you THINK will happen in the book.

The reason why this is so fun is because never, have I EVER, seen a student get relatively close to predicting the book. It makes the book extra fun because while we are reading and come across a word that was on this worksheet the whole class has a "Ah hah" moment and you seriously hear...."Ohhhhhhh!" and then laughter.

This simple activity is sure to get the students engaged in their reading, conversations, and motivate them to want to learn more.

Lucky for you, I've made an editable document in Power Point. Simply click on the picture above to download the worksheet from my Google Docs. It should open in Power Point. Create a text box over the "title" and "word bank" and fill them in. Print, copy, and let the fun begin!

Let me know if you try it out and how it works! I'd love to hear other ways you get students interested in reading novels!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Spark Motivation Saturday: Choice Seating! & New Blogover!

Hey friends. I hope you all are having a great Saturday! I just returned from my daughter's first soccer clinic. It was exciting to watch her play her first sport! When I came home and checked my email I found out my blogover was complete and ready to be installed! Yipee! I feel like I just got a new outfit. Robyn and I love the clip art and colored paper because if you haven't noticed by now... pink, polka dots, chevron, glitter, and school supplies are basically our favorite things! Let me know what you think of it! Thanks to Diana at Custom Blog Designs for making us such a beautiful blog and to on Etsy for the PERFECT clip art!

I am excited to link up for Spark Motivation Saturday with Joanne at Head Over Heals for Teaching. I love reading about all the great motivating ideas every Saturday. Today I am going to tell you about select seating. I love incorporating fun chairs into my classroom. I have a giant purple chair that the students literally fight over at "read around the room" time and a zebra bean bag chair. I also have some fun stools I purchased over the summer for a steal...except my 4th graders are getting big and when they rock on them, the legs bend. :( I don't want to take the chairs away from the kids because when they are in them, they are actually reading. The rule is that if you get a fun seat and are not reading, your forfeit your seat. The problem is, these chairs are expensive. My daughter grew out of her "My First Anywhere Chair" so I washed it and brought it in. I figured the kids would use it as a pillow...Nope...they loved it. It was the first chair the students pick when they pick they win the choose your seat for the day coupon from our reward coupons.  By the way, if you don't have these...they work WONDERS!

Here is one of my little gems showing us he can use the anywhere chair ...well...anywhere. haha (This was during Friday's spelling test! 

If that's not motivating for him and the other students to try to get that coupon, then I don't know what is! 

I'm excited to say, I think I just solved some of the problem. Have you ever used a Facebook Tag Sale Page? My town has one, and I just grabbed these (basically brand new) chairs for $30 from a smoke free/pet free home. Normally, they are super expensive. My kids are going to FREAK out on Monday! Now I am off to plan out how to make room for them in my classroom.

 Before I head out for the day, I had to tell you, my BBB is having a birthday and a giveaway! Check it out!

Have a wonderful weekend! :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Five for Friday w/ an Amazing Character Education Giveaway! Friends! TGIF! I am linking up with Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday today although I don't think I even have had five exciting things happen this week. I completely slacked on the pictures in the classroom, but then again, I was only in the classroom on Monday & Wednesday! Even so, I had an interesting week. I knew it would be busy, but seriously, I was barely in my classroom. My staff was on edge all week preparing to take the new SBAC tests. They are computer based tests and involve a very complicated log in that nobody knows, some text to speech devices that aren't working yet, and a classroom activity we have to conduct three days prior to the test. We were set to start Tuesday until just before dismissal today when we received an email: SBAC testing nationwide has been moved back a week! INSERT DEEP BREATH HERE! 

Huge news alert! I am getting a blog over! I'm super excited to see the final design, I think it will really reflect me and what I love. I don't want to give away too much information because I want the reveal to be a stay tuned!
Hopefully by now you have taken advantage of some of to people who have put Math items on sale today! If not, be sure to check out our TPT store for a 20% sale on Math products!
Do you teach character education?! Are you looking to win a few fabulous character education and positive behavior promoting resources to use in your classroom?!? Well, you're in luck!! Starting TODAY, my blogging friend, Angie of Mrs. Olson's Lucky Little Learners is hosting a GIVEAWAY!!

I'm thrilled to be a part of it!! You could win my Adorable Owl Character Education Posters!! I'm proud to have it as part of her giveaway!! It's a HUGE giveaway! You can head to Angie's blog by clicking the image above to check out the other great prizes, but you can stay right where you are and enter the giveaway below!!  

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Soccer starts (indoor) for my 4 year old tomorrow! I'm so excited although she said her "tummy feels a little nervous". 

Happy Pi Day! Let's celebrate with a Math Sale!

I just wanted to stop in and let everyone know that to celebrate Pi Day today we are offering 20% off all of our Math products in our TPT store! Click here to check them out.

How are you celebrating? I know I will be eating pie tonight! :)

Thanks to one of my favorite bloggers, AMC,  for creating this adorable image to announce our sale! 

Enjoy your day teacher friends!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Celebrating Leprechauns with a St. Patrick's Day Freebie!

I don't know about you, but my students believe in leprechauns. They get VERY animated when they tell you about the characteristics of a leprechaun and sometimes even have had experiences with them. I think it is a big third grade tradition, in our district, to create and set leprechaun traps because all the students have done it in the past. Although we don't do it in 4th, many still do it at home. To help spread the leprechaun spirit, I like to play some jokes on my students and work on leprechaun themed activities.

While learning idioms this week, we worked on a cute bulletin board. The students LOVED this activity and their poems were SO creative!
(You can get it in my TPT store).

I've heard these little leprechaun people are tricky and like to make messes (kinda like my 4th graders)- so a few times, this month, the students entered the classroom to find a surprise. There was a huge mess that included green glitter scattered all around the room. Markers, crayons, highlighters, and pencils were all mixed up in bins and there were trails of little feet prints EVERYWHERE...even on the white board. As my students know...I am a neat freak, so I would NEVER allow such a mess in the classroom. We quickly started to clean up while the students checked for other clues in the classroom. 

A few days went by before the cleaver little man returned. He decided to switch up the student's belongings in their desk. Of course nobody realized this until we had to take out our reading notebook and mass confusion set over the room. The looks on their faces when someone announced it must have been a trick played on them by the leprechaun was PRICELESS. 

I had a bunch of old plastic gold coins from an old behavior management system. To motivate my students to read, some of my motivated students just happened to find a piece of gold inside their Just Right Book. The coins actually fell out when they opened their book. These students were SO excited and boy did the other kids start reading.  As a reward the other students who really focused that day found a coin in their desk when they returned from lunch.

Another odd occurrence in room six this month was when the students returned back from activity period and EVERY student's pencil had disappeared only to be replaced with a green and silver shamrock pencil. We all decided this was our tiny friends way of apologizing for his sneaky behavior over the past few days.

I am still shocked that fourth graders really believe in this, maybe they don't and just want to see the silliness I come up with. Either way, it's fun for all of us, and I know it is something they will always remember about fourth grade. Tomorrow, while I am out at a PBIS meeting, the students will get a special surprise at snack time! Our leprechaun is leaving bags of Lucky Charms for the students to snack on during our Friday Read Around the Room Time!

Next week, on St. Patrick's Day, my students are going to find one of these cute prizes attached to something else (I'm not quite sure what yet because I have to check out the Dollar Store's St. Patty's Day selection), but I already printed these out. You can grab them from my TPT store for free by clicking on the image below! Enjoy!

I know I am all set for St. Patrick's Day in my classroom! If you want to check out some other fun ideas for celebrating St. Patrick's Day in the classroom, check out my friend Jenny's page Suntans and Lesson Plans!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Workshop Wednesday: Opinion Writing in My Classroom!'s hump day, which means it's time to link up with the wonderful, Jivey again for Workshop Wednesday! Today's topic is Opinion Writing! We are currently in our second session of opinion writing after reviewing narrative and informative writing earlier in the year. The way we wrote our curriculum we touch upon all three types of writing twice during the course of the year (six units). This is actually my first year not teaching narrative writing straight through. I knew I needed resources, but didn't know what my students actually knew. One of the best resources I've found is our monthly Scholastic Storyworks Magazine.
Does anyone else receive this? I absolutely LOVE it because it is a great mix of fiction, nonfiction, current events, pop culture, readers theater, debates, and polls. What is even better is the online features. You can search current or past magazines, project the magazine on the smart board, print quizzes, worksheets, or watch linked videos directly related to the articles. Scholastic got my vote when they linked Storyworks directly to the CCSS.  Anyways the first page I turn to when I receive my magazine is the debate. It is set up perfectly so students can read two sides of a situation, take a stance, and use text evidence to back up their opinion. Scholastic even incorporates a graphic organizer for the students to use! So helpful! knew I needed more articles that gave two opinions so students could take a stance, but I had a hard time finding student friendly pieces to use. I also needed to scaffold my way of teaching opinion writing because my lower students were still struggling with tone and adding their actual thoughts into the writing. Their writing seemed so fill in the blank and that's exactly what I didn't want. Sooooo, I created this wonderful packet called, Outstanding Opinions.

This amazing opinion writing packet includes everything you need to help your students write an opinion paragraph. When teaching students to write their opinion I start by teaching them how to take a stance, create a thesis, and support it with text evidence and explanations. Once students get comfortable with a simple paragraph, they can easily move onto essays.

This outstanding packet worked WONDERS for my class. 
It includes:
- Four opinion articles
Which is a better pet, a dog or a cat?
Should school run all year?
Should students be forced to wear school uniforms?
Should homework be banned?
- Cut and paste interactive paragraph construction
- Template to paste paragraph
- Paper to rewrite the paragraph
- Answer key
- Fill in explanation partial essay
- Paper to write opposite point of view
- Opinion paragraph rubric
- Step by step brochure for opinion writing (Most Popular Activity) 
One of the activities included in the packet is the cut and paste activity. I actually wrote an opinion paragraph for each article and have the students organize the paragraph before rewriting it. It is a great way for my lower friends to physically move the sentences to support text evidence with their opinion, make sure they have a thesis, etc. 

I absolutely LOVE the brochure and so do my students. It is fun motivator for the unmotivated writers in the classroom, great product to send home to parents, and perfect graphic organizer for all students.  My students improved SO much from using the brochure as a graphic organizer before writing their opinion paragraph.

Now that we have been working on opinion writing for a month, I often give the students a prompt to write about for a quick write. Like I mentioned before, we are working on author's tone, so we don't sound so robotic in our writing. This essay actually made me lol when I read it. This is a sweet, shy, little girl and she couldn't have more of an opinion on this topic!

I hope my post helps anyone looking for ways to teach opinion writing. The differentiated activities I've included in the packet really helped my class of multi-leveled learners. Opinion writing is now my favorite writing to teach (it used to be narrative)!