Saturday, May 31, 2014

Weekend Words: I Like to Party!

Probably the truest statement you will ever read about me!  I remember as a kid, during family parties I would squirrel away in my bedroom and read.  My mother used to have to come and drag me out of the room to socialize with my family!  Yeah, I was that kid!

Speaking of books (and some upcoming posts). . .

  • Earlier this week I went to an AMAZING workshop by Stephanie Harvey.  You probably know her best from her book Strategies That Work. I think she is just so on target with her thinking and her books.  I will share some of the workshop with you soon.
  • Finally, for those of us still teaching (I am until June 26th!) summer reading plans are in the works.  I will share later this weekend a little "summer reading - favorite book" project I organized for fifteen classroom in my school.  It turned out to be a cute end of the year mini-project.
For now, I'm off to "party!" :-)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou

Today, I learned of the passing of Maya Angelou.  I had a heartfelt sadness when I heard this news.  It was in college as a lit major that I first encountered Ms. Angelou's work in any depth.  I have yet to find another poet, author, scholar that resonates with me in so many ways on so many levels.  I thought today I would post some of her quotes that bring teaching to mind.

Photographed By Brigitte Lacombe At Dr. Angelou’s Home 
In Winston-Salem, North Carolina

  • "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." I've posted about my belief in this with a similar quote.

  • "We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated." Never give up! Hard is okay!

  • "You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot - it's all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive." I teach one grade, but my students are, in part, the sum of all their teachers and learning experiences that have come before me.  It is like growing a flower. So, as I spend my year with them, I try to make sure what I add this year is meaningful and positive so that they may bloom even bigger and brighter for next year's teacher.

  • "Nothing will work unless you do." Enough Said!

  • "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain." It is so easy to complain, and as of late, I have found myself too often falling into complaining mode.  It took a concentrated effort recently to decide I can complain about what I can't change at work, or I can do what I can to make it work.

  • "You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don't make money your goal.  Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you."  Why so many of us teach.

  • "In diversity, there is beauty and there is strength." Look out over the colors and cultures you see in those little faces and tell me there isn't beauty in diversity!  I live in an area with a great amount of cultural diversity, and it is one of the things I love about my students and community.

  • "I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music." If only our students would!

  • "You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them." Why does this make me think of faculty meetings?!

  • "If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love." Or, I would add, the students you teach.  For some, our smile may be the only one they get that day.

I had to come back and edit this post when I realized I forgot to add the Maya Angelou quote that I use most often with my friends.  "When you know better, you do better!" 
Isn't that what education is all about? 

There are so many more thoughts of Maya's that are so inspirational in other, more personal ways.  These few are just some that come to mind for teaching.  If you know of her, but don't know her work that well, I strongly suggest you pick up a book or two. 

A phenomenal woman always, may she rest in peace.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Weekend Words: Now and Then

I told you in this post how I am on a clean and purge kick 
as my school year is coming to an end in six weeks.  
Look what I found!
This would be a picture of my plan book from 2001-2002 
and my plan book from this year, 2013-2014.
Keep in mind the plan book on the right still has six more weeks of plans to be added to it.

Hmmm. . . 

Friday, May 16, 2014

What To Do With Your Extra Scholastic News Magazines

With six weeks of school left, I have started a major clean and purge kick this week.  One of the first things on my list was organizing the many Scholastic News magazines I have leftover from the year. I mean many.

Since I teach children of several different reading levels, I have subscriptions to grades 2, 3, and 4 Scholastic News.  Since I teach small groups, I tend to have lots and lots of leftovers!  Yes, I am revising my number of subscriptions for next year.  But, for this year, I had more than I could use. I sorted them all in a copy paper box by grade level, and then the question became what in the world can I do with them?  
Throwing them out is not an option.  Scholastic News is a great resource for informational articles that my friends love reading, and I love teaching with.  But, what to do with them all?  I figure I can't be the only one to have this lovely problem, so I sat down and brainstormed a list of different ways to make the most of those past dated magazines.

  • Text Features Posters - Earlier last year, my friends made non-fiction text features posters.  I gave them a handful of old Scholastic News (SN) magazines, poster paper, and scissors.  Their task was to identify as many informational text features they could find.  They cut them out, pasted them on the poster and labeled each one, and wrote a sentence telling what it does.  In case you were wondering, given a handful of SN magazines, you will find pretty much every text feature imaginable.
  • Centers - There are so many options for these in centers!
    • 5Ws - Place a variety of SN mags in a folder with a 5W graphic organizer (who, what, where, when, why.)  Students can pick any article to read and complete the organizer.
    • Vocab Search - There are always vocab boxes in SN.  Task your friends with creating a definition in their own words.  Then, they can locate and then write down the sentence in which the word is used.  Next, they can write their own sentence using the word in context correctly and create an illustration for this.  This can all happen on one sheet of paper!
    • Grammar Hunts - Stack some newspapers with a bucket of highlighters and a task card that has your friends highlight (for example) 5 nouns in yellow, 5 verbs in blue, 3 pronouns, 4 adjectives, etc.  You get the idea. If you have been working on prefixes and suffixes, you could create a task card that has them hunt for that. For younger kids, you could do a search for words that begin with certain blends. There's wide variety of things you could search for!
    • Title It! - Use labels to cover the titles of the article.  Task your friends with creating a title for the article once they have read it.  Not as easy as it might seem if you require a relevant title that will catch the reader's interest.  It really forces your friends to mentally summarize the article and think about the author's message.
    • A Magazine and A Task - There are so many generic graphic organizers that can be put with any magazine.  You can provide organizers that have your friends summarize, compare and contrast, sequence, etc.  Just match up a SN with a particular organizer and done.  I should say that SN all come with an activity sheet which you could also just copy and use.
  • Social Studies Maps - There is a map in every SN, usually with questions that rely on reading the map and not the article.  It would be great to cut out a bunch of maps from different magazines, paste them on card stock, laminate them, and have your friends practice map skills using the various maps and dry erase markers.  You could have the answer key on the other side for easy self-checks.  This would also be a good center activity.
  • Substitute Work - I'm sure this one was kind of obvious!  SN come with very explicit lesson plans and worksheets making them easy for substitutes to use.  I find the content is always on target, so I know a worthwhile lesson is being done while I am gone.  Plus, my friends like these newspapers which means I know the sub won't have resistant students on her hands.
  • Have a Nonfiction Read In! - I wrote about a read in I recently had with my friends.  These would be great for that if you have a limited amount of time to do it and wanted your friends to get in some nonfiction text reading.
  • Write the Story - The cover of each SN has a catchy title, a great photograph, and a blurb designed to spark your friends' interest.  Give them the cover and have them write the article that goes along with it.  Now, the obvious problem here is that these are informational articles, and your friends may not have the information needed to write the article.  No problem! They could write a draft, read the article, then incorporate some facts from the article into their own writing. They are writing, identifying facts, revising, and more.  Or, they could just write an imaginative piece.  Your choice.
  • Cut Them Up - Lots of the photographs in the magazines would make great picture prompts.  If you are making a collage of some kind, old SN magazines are a great age appropriate resource for pictures unlike some magazines where the ads alone can make you cringe!
  • Summer Quick Read Packets - If you want your friends to do some summer reading, create a variety pack of SN magazines in a folder.  Give your friends a folder to decorate with a summer reading theme.  Let them pick the magazines they would want to read over the summer to put in their folder. It wouldn't really matter if they've read them earlier in the year.  Rereading is good!  Plus, these are short, engaging articles that are great for reluctant readers to engage in over the summer. If there is an accountability or project component to your summer reading, the kids could complete the back page of the magazine which has questions to answer on the various articles.
  • Interview the Expert - Pair your friends to read the same article.  When done, have one friend be the reporter and the other the expert.  Have the reporter interview the expert on the article topic.  They will both need to have read the article so the expert has the information and the reporter can come up with questions to ask.  
  • Donate! - If all else fails and you really can't find a use for them in your classroom, donate them to a teacher who doesn't get a subscription.  Or, if your district allows, drop some off at your pediatrician's or orthodontist's office to put in with their magazines.  If you have a local boys or girls club you might donate them there.  
Those are just some ideas I came up with thinking about this today. I'll bet you could come up with even more! If you have another great idea or a thought about these ideas, tell us in the comments. Love to hear from you!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Weekend Words: Feelings Matter

I have had this quote hanging near my desk for years.  
It is one of the first things I hang up. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Testing Treats!

My friends are currently in the midst of our yearly state testing.  Our 5th graders are testing this week and the 4th will test next week.  I will be administering both weeks as I'm doing small group testing.  This would be friends with IEPs and 504s that call for specific testing conditions and/or accommodations.

This week I am testing a small group of five.  They are a great group of kids that I have worked with last year and/or this year.  My 5th graders have four days of testing this week, two days of ELA and two days of math.  They truly are giving their best effort with, what is for them, some challenging material.  State standardized tests are tough for these guys, but I couldn't be more proud of them.

Since tomorrow is their last day of testing, I decided to end with a reward treat.  It was totally a last minute thought, so I scrambled after school today to find something.  I found some great freebie treat testing themed labels that I wanted to share with you.  I know many of you have finished testing, so this is too late for you.  But, this is definitely something to download and have in your files for next year.

Since it was a last minute scramble, I searched around and found a fantastic collection of free treat labels by Danielle Mastandrea.  The download has seven different labels, six to a page, that have a cute graphic with a motivational testing saying.  Since we are finishing, I used, "Testing is o-fish-ally over!"  A quick print on card stock, a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up a pack of snack-sized rainbow Goldfish, and done!  I just cut them out, taped them to the cracker bag, and I'm good to go.  The way I taped them left room on the back of each tag to write a short "well done!" note to each.  This honestly took me no time at all to do.

The other six labels are more geared to be given before and during testing with sayings such as:

  • "Today you will GLOW when you show what you know." (glow sticks)
  • "You're a Smartie pants!" (Smarties candy)
  • "You're a star bursting with knowledge!" (Starburst candy)
  • "Blow the test out of the water!" (Blowpops lollipops)
  • "You are one smart cookie!" (cookies!)
  • "You're an expert.  You're on a roll. Do your best, and show what you know!" (Tootsie Rolls or Fruit Roll-Ups)
I like that there are a couple not candy related.  Perfect for those friends with allergies or schools with a no candy policy.  The tags are all really cute with great fonts and adorable clip-art.  So, if you are looking for a quick way to motivate your friends during testing, these tags do the job!

I should mention that there are tons of motivational testing tags available on the Tpt site, but this set was one of the nicest I saw.  And, it's a free download!  If you do download it, be sure to leave Danielle a great rating for her great product!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Weekend Words: I Got You a Corn Dog!


You must know him by now!  My friends and I love Kid President!
We love him because he knows the 20 things we should say more often, makes a great tour guide
By the way, did you know he kissed Beyonce?
Now, go give someone a corn dog, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Rainy Day Read-In

Oh, the weather outside was frightful!
And, it was so dark and delightful!
So, what to do indeed?
Let Us Read! Let Us Read! Let Us Read!
This Wednesday, in about a 24 hour period, we got between 2-5 inches of rain across our area. The skies were dark and the rain was pouring.  It even sounded like there was an occasional clap of thunder. So, I dug out my basket of these great little book lights.

Right before Christmas, I found these on the clearance rack in the drugstore.  I mean a serious clearance.  They were around $1.50 each.  I grabbed them all!  Since then, they've been sitting in my closet just waiting for a day like this past Wednesday.

It was one of those days you just wish you could stay home in your comfy clothes with a good book.  Rainy, dark, and gloomy.  A perfect day to get lost in a story!  So, I moved my guided reading plans to the next day and we had an impromptu read-in!

Now, my love of reading is only matched by some of my friends' dread of reading.  However, these little lights, comfy floor pillows, and a dark room worked some kind of magic on them.  They read.  Not only did they read, they read with STAMINA!  25-30 minutes of nonstop reading! I didn't have to redirect one single friend.  They even thanked me for letting them read when we were done!  They wanted to know if we could do it again next time it rains.

All kidding aside, it was amazing how something just a little different from the regular routing can motivate.  I sat and read with one friend who NEVER wants to read.  I was really amazed at how well it all went.

When time was up, we closed by telling a little about the books we were reading.  The retellings, comments, and thoughts my friends shared were some of the best this year.  This came not from reading in the dark, but from having extended reading time.  It is one of my big frustrations this year.  I know scheduling is hard, but I so wish my friends had more independent reading time in theirs.

You can't get better at reading if you don't read.  And, you need reading that goes beyond a quick 10 minutes at the end of a period.  You need reading time that allows you to get lost in your book.  Time enough to get involved in the plot and interested to know what is going to happen next.  With choppy five and ten minute reading times this type of engagement is difficult to achieve.

I know we ask our friends to read at home and even keep reading logs, but there is something to be said about being in a room with your classmates and everyone is engaged in a good book.

So, the next time it rains (or just close the shades if it doesn't) turn off the lights, grab some flashlights, and have a read-in!  It really is fun for all!  And, it absolutely is instructional time well spent!