Monday, August 17, 2015

The Reading Strategies Book: Goal 5

Thanks so much to Literacy Loving Gals for organizing this book study and getting the word out on this extremely helpful reading strategy resource. I love the way this book is set up and I know I'll be referring to it often this school year.

 Today I'm sharing some details on Goal 5 of The Reading Strategies Book, which is all about understanding plot and setting. Basically it's about understanding what is happening in the book. 
A big part of this is visualizing. Children must explicitly be taught this skill.
This Goal is perfect for me because I'm constantly saying the following phrase to my class...

 These visualizing skills are so important to develop and model to students. 
So often this step is skipped because it's a skill that is done automatically in mature readers. When this step is skipped children tend to become readers that finish books, but can never tell you about the book they're reading. As a child, I was one of these readers. My eyes would move and I was decoding words, but it wasn't going anywhere. Literally. Nowhere. I pictured very little as I read until I was a bit older and a wonderful teacher said, "You have to picture it. Put yourself in that book." From that day on I LOVED to read. Now I stress the importance of the skill in my own classroom. Seriously, by the end of the year they're all saying, "We know Mrs. M! Make a Movie in Your Mind!"
It makes me so happy when it sticks...

Here are a few strategies from the chapter that can help your students become active, thinking readers that are able to visualize.

Reactions Help You Find the Problem

This strategy is all about teaching students the importance of noticing how the character is reacting to a situation in the books. Further the author, Jennifer Seravello, encourages the teacher to use an extension prompt such as, "What does that reaction tell you about what he or she is feeling?" 
This strategy could be completed in a Double Entry Journal. You could also have the students put post-its in their books with an explanation of the character's reaction at that point.  
An example used in the book is from Charlotte's Web when Fawn is "shrieking" because she discovers Papa is planning, "to do away the pig". That word, "shrieking" can really make an impression on a reader and we want to teacher our young ones to pick up on clues like these.
Practice makes permanent!

Chapter-End Stop Signs
At the end of each chapter the students will write one important event from that chapter. This could be done on a post-it and placed at the end of the chapter. It could also be completed on a paper like the one they showed in the book below.  

This a great way to get students thinking and reflecting about what they read. 
It would also help them with retelling and summarizing skills.

Series Books Have Predictable Plots

The author suggests using this strategy with your book clubs or reading groups. Throughout the book the students would discuss similarities between the plots of the books in the same series. Then to extend on that encourage the students to use what they know about that pattern to predict what will happen in the current book they're reading. 
They use the example of The Magic Tree House, which is the perfect example in my opinion. After reading a couple of these the students should see the pattern of the book. The book club could create a poster like the one shown in the book. 

This poster shows how students were actively thinking and comparing throughout their book club. We then want this process to carry over into independent reading. Again, practice makes permanent!

Another idea I thought of to include some writing would be to create a story with a similar pattern as the series they're reading. It would be their own version of an adventure with those characters in a similar plot line.

You guys need to pick up this book! It's easy to utilize & implement the strategies listed.
Thanks for stopping by & Thanks to The Literacy Loving Gals for inviting me to join in!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

BTS in a Flash! Student Engagement

Hello everyone! It's the final week of BTS in a Flash! This linky has been so much fun & I've found so many great ideas! Thanks to our hosts for setting all of this up! :)
This week's topic is student engagement...

These little traffic cones with positive sayings on them make my kids work SO hard. As soon as I start giving them out the participation in class shoots way up! I found them at the Dollar Tree. I've seen them each year around back to school time for about the past four years, but if you see them buy them! They go quickly! 
I give these out for exceptional answers, hard work, kind acts, and great effort! When the kids earn a cone they also write a note home to their parent to let them know they earned it and how they earned it. It sits on the corner of their desk for the day & then they're returned to be used again the next day. 
I didn't have a picture of the cones so I used this photo of the cones from Crockett's Classroom. She has a post about these where she adds a little something to spice them up. Check it out!

Behavior bucks were a huge hit this past year. The kids could earn $5.00 each day if they followed classroom rules, completed their work, got along with others etc. They would save the money and then they could spend it on reward coupons (see below). Also, once a quarter I would have a special event such as donut morning where they could spend the earned paper money to buy a donut. The kids were really motivated to stick to our rules so they could keep their money. They also got a lot of practice in trading money because they always wanted the higher bills. So it was helpful in two ways! I love it when that happens!

These are the coupons that I mentioned earlier. These were great because the rewards on the coupons cost me little to no money and the kids loved them! I'd say the favorites were, "Sit in the Teacher's Chair" and "Homework Pass". The kids really wanted to save their Behavior Bucks so they could purchase the coupons.

What are your tips for keeping students engaged?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

BTS in a Flash! Decor & More

Another week has flown by friends! I'm not in my room just yet but here are some of the things that are a MUST for my decor.

A Color Scheme You Love!
I chose this color scheme last week & just love it! It makes the room look so welcoming, but still calm. Of course I had to purchase many accessories to make the room look complete. Good thing Hobby Lobby & Target have plenty of options for me. Haha! #targetproblems

A Fun Bulletin Board Background
The background is felt from Joann Fabrics and the border is tissue paper. This one stays up all year and I just change out the objects on it. I'm going to try focus walls this year! I saw this tissue border idea from All Students Can Shine!

I need inspiration in my room to keep me going! I also think it sends a positive message to the kids and you can never have too many positive vibes in a classroom! I created this one last year. I have a couple versions HERE if you're interested in adding a little inspiration on your door!

Cute Labels!
Fun labels make everything better! Am I right!? These also help me to stay organized. I use these labels in the Sterilite drawers behind my desk and they were a life saver this past year. I felt more organized than usual and the little clips on the labels just brightened up the whole shelf.

I can't wait to read the other decor ideas! Posts like these are always so inspiring! How do you decorate your classroom?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

BTS in a Flash! Curriculum Must Haves

Hello friends! It's week 2 in the BTS in a Flash series! I hope you'll join in on the fun. I'm always looking for new ideas & products to use in my classroom. Here are a few of my curriculum must haves in class!

I used these Interactive Notebooks by Blair Turner and they are so great! There are pictures to show what the page should look like and the activities are engaging for the kids. It really helped that they were organized by standard since I teach in a state that uses Common Core. It made the files easy to navigate & use.

These Multiplication & Division Loops were created by me & they were life-savers this past year! It was a quick & engaging way for the kids to practice their math facts each day. I had them in small expandable files. The kids would take one loop to complete and then add it to the class chain link. The chain link grew each day & that really motivated kids to continue practicing.

This Book Club  product is on my WISH LIST! I want to use more novels in class and this fantastic resource from Not So Wimpy Teacher will help me accomplish that goal! These organizers are versatile so they can be used with a variety of books. What products are on your wish list?
What products are must haves for you?
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, July 26, 2015

BTS in a Flash! Teacher Faves

Hello friends! Can you believe it's already time for back to school!? I know some of you are already in the classroom but I am still cherishing my last few weeks. Along with enjoying the time, I'm getting ready for my next crew! It's funny how a teacher's brain never really turns off. Your classroom & students are always in the back of your mind it seems. But now it's finally time to take action!
I'm so excited to be joining all of these FABULOUS bloggers to share a super fun Back to School linky! Hopefully I'll find some more items that will make all the difference this year.
We hope you'll join in the fun too!
So this week is Teacher Faves! When I sat down to write this post I tried to think of my favorite teacher things. You know the things that just keep you going. The things that make your life just a little bit easier. As first I couldn't think of anything but coffee. I know that's totally shocking here on this blog *sarcasm* but soon my list was really long. It turns out I like  A LOT of things. That might explain my issues with spending far too much money at Target.... Which is also one of my favorite things. Haha!
So I chose the very best of my favorite things. All the while humming that catchy song from The Sound of Music. Ha! I seriously loved that movie as a kid. But getting back on track here. :)

"These are a few of my favorite things..."

This past year was the first year I tried using interactive notebooks & glue sponges in my classroom. I mostly used them in math and I LOVED them! The kids were engaged when we used them. We were able to go back to older pages and refresh our memories. I also liked being able to complete a page on Day 1 and then on Day 2 the kids would look it over. They would talk about the topics and show that they understood it with an example using words or pictures. The glue sponges worked really well, One things I learned was the importance of using a good container to keep the air out!

These drawers kept me organized this year. It forced me to put things in their place. When I made copies they went in by subject & I was no longer searching through piles on my desk. These cute labels add a pop of color & fun. I also used a set with my writer's workshop drawers. The labels were fun to make so I ended up creating a couple versions. If you like a little clip art click HERE and if you like it simple & blue click HERE.

Post its! Sticky paper! Why didn't I think of this idea!? I just love these. I really like this size because they're great to use in reading group. The kids write notes about how they responded to the text and stick them in the book. I've also used them as a color coded book marks when more than one reading group is using the same book.

Lattes, machiattos, and frappuccinos! I like them all! These wonderful treats just keep me going. It's my Friday treat and sometimes my Monday or Wednesday pick me up. Haha!
Milanos just make working those evenings easier for me. I sometimes have just one as a treat for making it through a stack of papers. Sometimes I have more than one...
I know books seems obvious since I'm a teacher, but I just can't leave them out, and I can't just pick one. If I had a bigger home I would have a giant library. I'd even have one of those cool rolling ladders that you're never allowed to climb on in the store. You know like in that scene from Disney's Beauty & the Beast!? You know you want to try it! :)

Individual dry erase boards make my life easier.
Less paper = less grading = happy teacher & less paper usage = happy planet.
Plus their more fun than paper! They're perfect for teaching a skill in small group, student skills practice. and they're great for quickly checking on student's understanding of topics. They can be expensive at school supply stores. I was lucky to find these just last week at the local craft store for $2.00 each! Woohoo!

What are your teacher faves!?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summer Stock Up!

Hello Friends! I hope you're having a fantastic & refreshing summer! I'm linking up with The Primary Gal to Share & Show you some amazing products.
My Multiplication Loops & Division Loops were life-savers this year!! They were a quick & easy way for the kids to practice their math facts. Plus they were fun!

I stored them in a little file folder that I found at The Dollar Tree. I printed a bunch. Then I cut & sorted them in the file folder so they would be easy to find and refill. This would last a few weeks so it was low maintenance for me to keep up with in class. 

The kids would help themselves to a loop at their level. They would complete it on their own after morning work, or if they finished a task early. Sometimes they wore them like a bracelet, but most of the time the kids added them to our math fact chain. The chain went around the room and the students were motivated to make the chain grow.

My Freebie is a sample of these Multiplication Loops! 
Be sure to check them out & see if they could be successful in your classroom!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Learn Like A Pirate: Improvement Focus

As I started reading this chapter I immediately thought of so many former students.
Kids who worked hard and it just didn't come easy to them.
I specifically thought of one child who had made so much growth. I was, and still am so proud of the growth that was made in one year. At the end of the year, I even said, "Look at all you've learned this year! I'm so proud of you!"
The response, "Then why are my grades so bad?" 
He/she didn't see it. I saw a kid who put forth effort, made great growth, and all he/she saw were the numbers. I was so shocked I could barely formulate a response. 
All I could think was, "How did I let this happen?" 
After reading this chapter it is obvious that I have the power to control this thinking.
I can control how students respond to assessment.
However, this is another one of those not-so-easy tasks.
It feels awkward to say grades don't matter, but I see the value in it. I see it because if you always get poor grades you will eventually think it's not worth it to even try in class. If you only ever see negative that's how you feel about learning, school, and yourself. 
Honestly I'm not exactly sure how to fix it.
We're in a time where it seems numbers are the only things that matter. I found myself falling into this black hole of, "all students must measure to this level." 
And it's sad. It makes me sad that my mind switched at some point.
Somewhere recently in my teaching journey I got lost.
I could feel it too. You know that moment where you know your professional judgement is correct, but there's all this other buzzing behind you stating the opposite? Hearing it so often you start to fall for it too. You figure your judgement must be off if all the buzz is saying something different.
Here's the thing... Your gut is almost always right.
At this point my gut has the feeling that what I was doing didn't work for everyone. It worked for many, but not all. I could reach more students by implementing these strategies. I can help create a positive feeling about what is accomplished rather than what isn't achieved. 
I have to focus on the improvement of skills rather than grades only.
Paul Solarz shows this can be done by having high expectations in class, providing useful feedback, giving students ownership of their learning & by tracking progress. 

My current questions are: How can we only focus on improvement when all students are to learn certain standards in each grade? We're responsible to teach skills, and what if they just don't master them?  What do you do when you have a student that isn't interested or motivated? 

What do you think about focusing on improvement rather than grades in your classroom?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Learn Like A Pirate: Peer Collaboration

Ready for some honesty? 
This chapter overwhelmed me...
You ever feel like that? Just totally overwhelmed by a task...
Collaboration is IMPORTANT. 
It's been SO important to me as an educator. It is when I collaborate that I become inspired, excited, encouraged, and honestly it helps me make clear decisions. When I bounce ideas off of someone I trust and respect I feel clear.
I'm sure you feel this way too. You're an educator. We thrive on good conversation, solutions to problems, and implementing strategies that work.
This is a major goal of a student-led classroom.
Before I can have a strong student-led classroom I have to teach them how to work together.
They need to learn how to respect each other, empathize, problem-solve, compromise, discuss calmly, and be motivated to participate.
See!? I got overwhelmed again just thinking about it.
I've found that the best way to teach a skill is to model the skill. If I want students to be calm, I have to be calm. If I want students to respect one another, I have to respect and treat everyone just the same. It's not always easy, and I'm an adult. 
But it's a part of life, and these are skills they'll use forever. 
*Sidebar: I totally just said forever like that kid from The Sandlot.*
It will be a lot of effort and most definitely doesn't seem easy, but I'm just going to take it one day at a time. When I feel like it's too  hard I'll remind myself that I have the great opportunity to teach these kids something that will help them forever.
That's pretty amazing. 
Not academic, but important, real, and necessary. 
These skills with lead to more success.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Learn Like A Pirate: Concerns You Might Have

Change is hard, but take a risk!
This is the biggest lesson I've taken away from reading this section of the book.
It's so true! There are SO many truths in this section. 
Here are a few of the concerns that are addressed:

"What if it doesn't work?"
Many examples are given to show how it can work if implemented properly.
I say, what if it does work!? You end of up with a classroom full of independent, engaged, self-directed, excited, students. Those students are on their way to becoming life-long learners. 
That is the main goal of education.

"It will be too chaotic! I'll lose control of the group."
After reading it seems that if the goal of a student-led classroom, and a model of how that looks is shown to your students they will be on task. This concern made me think of when I started Daily 5 in my classroom. At first I thought, 'If they're not completing a something I've specifically assigned they'll waste the time." 
I was so wrong. 
After discussing and modeling Daily 5 for a few weeks the kids had it. Sure, there are always a few that need to be reminded, but more often than not I had a classroom full of engaged readers & writers.
Teachers would come into my room and say, "Wow they're all so engaged." My students were engaged because the tasks they completed in Daily 5 were meaningful.
They were actively taking part in their own learning goal.
I'm thinking this is key with a student-led classroom.
I'm wondering if Daily 5 would be considered student-led... It seems like it, but I'll keep you posted on what I find out!

"There's no time for this. There's too much to do."
I could use about 6 more hours in the day. I know you could as well.
This one is always a big concern of mine. So much to do and so little time.
In this section I really started to see a big benefit of a student-led classroom....
Imagine you're in the middle of a whole class lesson. You are guiding the discussion. It's going well. They "get it". Then the phone in your classroom rings. You have to answer it obviously. You end up on the phone for maybe 2 minutes, but in that 2 minutes your class has lost that line of thinking and engagement. The learning flow has halted. They students started thinking of other things, perhaps they're chatting with a neighbor. You get off the phone, have to bring the group back together, and then get the class on task. Time lost that you can't get back...
You continue your lesson. The class again becomes engaged in the discussion. Then there is a knock at the door. Again, you have to stop the lesson to talk with the person at the door for another few minutes. The class has now lost more minutes of precious learning time.
This happens in my room, and I'm sure it happens to you as well.
If you had a student-led classroom that time would be used more wisely. The kids don't stop learning when you have to talk with a teacher, or answer the phone. They continue on their learning journey. 
Think of the time you would be gaining. 

Many other concerns are addressed in this section. It's as if the author, Paul Solarz, is reading every teacher's mind. In the end it seems the risk is going to be worth the reward.

Here are some rewards or treasures from implementing a student-led classroom:
*Better retention of learning
*More time for the teacher to give feedback to students
*Engaged teacher & students
*Students that are excited about what they're learning.
*Opportunities to model how to learn from our mistakes
*A classroom environment where students respect one another.
*A classroom environment where students are encouraged to problem-solve.

It can be so easy to keep doing what we've always done.
But here's a quote from the book to keep in mind...
"Children are different; the world is different"

It's so true!
Change is hard, but the reward could be big! 
It can be rewarding for us as educators to try something new. 
We can get that new, excited feeling when we see that it's working. That our hard work and modeling is really paying off. That the students like school and feel empowered in our classrooms.
I feel excited already! I hope you do too!
Take a risk!
You'll always wonder if you don't at least give it a try Matey! Ha! Pirate humor is so much fun!
Hope to see ya next week!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate: Chapter 1

Hello friends!! I'm so excited to be joining The Primary Gal's book study this summer!
This book is already so inspiring. It's written as if the author is sitting with me just chatting about what goes on in his classroom. So let me fill you in on the first chapter...
This book is all about creating a student-led classroom. In this chapter the author defines what it means, and begins sharing the benefits. Here's how he defines it...

"A student-led classroom is one in which students make decisions and choices
 throughout the day without consulting the teacher." ~ Learn Like a Pirate, page 8.

Now I read this and my Type A personality flares started going off. "Uhh what do you mean they don't consult me!? I'm in charge of my classroom!" 
But I read on and began to see that although we are giving up some control, which can be scary, we're gaining a whole lot more. Students will be taking ownership of their learning, they'll be engaged, inspired, AND meeting the goals necessary at their grade level. 
This is done in most cases with a mini-lesson from the teacher and then students move out into their student-led activities. That's my understanding so far. In the author's words...

"The teacher says what needs to be said and then gets out of the way." Learn Like A Pirate, page 10

This made me think about the similarity between student-led learning and my writer's workshop time. I teach a mini lesson, and then the kids try out the skills mixed with previous skills they've learned. I've seen amazing success with this type of learning. This could work in my 3rd grade classroom! 
In order to be successful with this type of learning the author stresses the importance of students feeling safe to share, feeling appreciated for their contribution to the class, and having a positive connection to their teacher. So in order for this to work you must begin to create that connection the very first day, or even at your "Meet the Teacher" night. 
I'm really excited about this book friends! I hope you'll join us for the other chapters, and maybe even read on your own. Let us know your thoughts & be sure to check out all the other fabulous bloggers' thoughts too!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

i Teach Third Blog Announcement

Hello friends! I've got some BIG news...  
I will be collaborating with a group of fabulous, creative, dedicated, 3rd grade teachers just like yourself on the blog iTeach Third!!! See all the amazing collaborators below! 

We are so excited to share ideas with you on this new blog!!
It will be a place where third grade teachers can go to find fantastic tips, new ideas, teaching strategies that have worked (or flopped) in our classrooms, and of course resources that are just right for our 3rd graders!

I'm thrilled to be collaborating with this fantastic group & hope you'll stop by often!
Hop over to our NEW blog where you can earn 11 FREEBIES & enter our kickoff GIVEAWAY that will last April 12-13! 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Multiplication Loops!

Hey there! I know I always seems to start my posts this way but.... TIME NEEDS TO SLOW DOWN! Yes I'm shouting that phrase. 
My little one is growing up so fast, and the school year is more than half over. What!?!?
 I literally thought to myself just now, "Oh I blogged in December that's only a month ago, that's not so bad... Wait, it's February.... I basically missed a month in bloggy land.. Oops... So sorry friends..."
Here's what is new in my room!
I have this cool new routine happening in my class and I want to share it with you!
Who needs their students to get those multiplication facts mastered!? Oooo me!!!
I wanted to make the practice engaging & simple to implement so I created Multiplication Loops! These are super motivating, quick,and they get the practice done. Yes!

I put one of these on their desks in the morning and they complete it after bell work. Then they can either make the loops into a bracelet OR add it to our class math fact chain! It's quick, it's easy, AND they like it. That's what I call win-win! 
In addition to the practice we do the weekly fact fluency test. The kids have 30 problems to complete and they're timed. I know it's old school, but I can't come up with any other way to get those facts to be mastered at a quick rate.
Some of the math stations I use to improve their fact fluency are Shake & Multiply,, and the games below.

I used a clean egg carton, scrap paper, punched out circles, and beans to create this. The kids shake and multiply. The star is like a WILD. They can choose the number to multiply. For accountability purposes I had the partner check the solver's answer, and it if it's correct the solver takes a unifix cube. The kids are proud of how tall they can make their unifix cube tower by the end of the station.

I also use Roll & Multiply, which I bought on Amazon 

Another class favorite is S-more Multiplication! In this one the students can play a variety of ways. They can match turn around facts for multiplication. The second way to play is to match the multiplication fact with it's division fact. The third way is to match all three and make the multiplication s'more. It's cute & the kids can use it in a variety of ways. 
It's a popular choice during math station time!

What are some activities used in your classroom to practice multiplication facts?