Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Raven

We've been working on poetry, so in honor of Halloween, we read Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven.

I read the first stanza to them and they listened for alliteration.

Then, we watched two videos on teacher tube. 

The first was with an actor (Christopher Walkin?) reading aloud the poem with spooky sound effects.  The first video did a great job at establishing an eerie mood, similar to the true intention of Poe.

The second was the animated Simpson's version:

Students took notes on the video:

Then compared and contrasted the multimedia elements in the presentations.

They had a great time with the poems :)


Last week, we went to Kid Vention where our students learned about democracy and voting.  

We had our students write debates and share their thoughts in front of the grade level.

We made them ballots:

And classy voting boxes:

They get to vote on the four issues until tomorrow afternoon.  We're going to analyze the data next week and see whose class had the most voters :)

11/01 Update:

Here's our finalized vote:

Not a lot of votes :(
Exactly how we expected.  Should lead to an interesting conversation on Monday about being passionate about issues and actually taking the time out to vote.

Students couldn't vote during learning time.  They had to come before school, stay after or come in at lunch.  We chose to do this because very few adults get time off to vote, we have to take the time out of our day to perform this civic duty.

Themes & Poetry

This week we are working on poetry.  Specifically, we're reviewing text structure, figurative language, theme and summarizing a poem.  We're also working collaboratively to summarize the stanzas, identify characters' feelings, locate shifts in mood and practice note taking on the text to become more engaged readers.

We used the poem Casey at the Bat this week and broke it up into a 3 day unit.  The first day was the "I do" where I modeled the skills we're working on, the second day we did as a class and the third day they did part with a partner and the rest for homework.

Then I re-read the entire poem, thus modeling the importance of re-reading for information.  We then referred to our theme chart:

(You can grab it here as part of a TpT bundle!)

We did Casey at the Bat not only because it's a recommended text, but it's also because I'm a Boston Red Sox Fan :)
Today, in honor of Halloween, we are doing the same process with Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven.

I know it will be a little tricky for some students, but it's a fun challenge and it's festive!

In small groups today, we're also trying a new collaborative strategy for writing a constructed response.  Since many of them have finished their first novel, we are going to look for the theme.

I made them a guide for their CRs:

They're going to write independently on a post-it today and tomorrow combine 3 or 4 people's post-its into one group response. I'm excited to give this new strategy a try!

Next, here's a student working on our affix sort, a new process I'm trying this week.

We did Wednesday's activity yesterday of sorting affixes.

You can download your own copy here!

We also have our new centers ready to go!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

SWAG rewards

 My AM class finally earned their fifty SWAG points to earn a treat. (Read about our classroom management system, SWAG, here!)

I wanted there to still be an academic purpose, so they earned themselves "book worms":

They got to enjoy their book worms while doing their must do's (main idea) and choice stations.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

random acts of kindness

It's been a frustrating week.

It's hard to maintain a positive attitude when things keep getting broken or stolen.  It's getting expensive to replace hard cover books and most recently, my personal laminator.  I understand that accidents happen, but I'd just love if my students listened more when I told them not touch things and gave explicit instructions.  It's not a secret that teachers are underpaid and the cost of supplies is rising :(

However, I'm trying really hard to focus on the small, positive moments.

We had an awesome training by our counselor on 3 words.  We had to pick 3 words and mine were "appreciate the positive".  That's what I'm trying to do!

(Those of you at my school site, I promise I am trying...even though I may be grumpy...)

So here is my positive note:

One of my students was out last week because he had a family vacation in Washington.  I appreciate the family scheduling the trip around our weird fall break (staff developoment and Nevada day) so the student only missed one day of school--and a field trip day at that.  

This student is in RTI, very quiet, frequently wiggly and needs a lot of reminders to be on task.  I'm inclusion and have been for years, so I'm used to this behavior.  Heck, I'm not able to sit still for more than twenty minutes without trying to multi-task, so I can't hold it against them.

He was back on Monday and surprised me with this magnet:

It's a little hard to tell from the picture, but my awesome magnet is mostly pink and sparkly :)

Clearly he understands my preferences in life!  If only it was polka dotted...

Small groups in action!

I love small group reading :)

I feel like I'm a literacy specialist since so much of my day is spent with literacy:

9-9:40: phonics, whole group reading
9:40-10:40: small group reading
10:40-11:25: writing
11:25-11:55: science
12:30-1:05: intervention/extension block (fluency, comprehension and vocabulary)
1:05-2:05: small group reading 

Here are some snapshots of our centers:


My students are using kidblog to respond to one another online:

Snapshot of our afternoon blog:

They're doing such a great job!

Reader's theater:

They're doing a Greek mythology passage this week :)  I love that they picked one that aligns to our grade level read aloud, The Lightning Thief. We're also going on a field trip next week to see a performance of Jason and the Argonauts

Our new centers, based on the novels they just finished:

All are available on TpT!

We're also doing our weekly affixes:

On Tuesdays I challenge them to find non-examples of this week's affixes.  Today, it was words that appeared to start with un- or re- and end with -s or -es that were non-examples of these affixes.  They did a good job at coming up with ideas.

Since both of my groups (AM and PM) finished Hatchet, I had them compare their anchor charts:

They did a good job with picking out the same big ideas from the novel and analyzing how Brian developed over time.

Since I don't have enough books for both groups, one is reading The River while the other is reading Brian's Winter with the idea they'll switch when they're done.

We also looked at how the cover illustrations had changed over time:

They were highly amused by the early 90's version :)

My students are so excited about our books and that's just awesome.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


My weekend of productivity is coming to an end. I have one more product that's been posted on TpT, bringing it up to 71.  

This final product for the week is a Q & A comprehension station for Lois Lowry's Gossamer. The product includes 18 questions and an answer key.  Snag yours here!

I can't wait to use my new stations with my small groups tomorrow!  

I'm taking my laminator to work and printing my stations during prep. I'l have my awesome afterschool helpers start cutting out our new stations so we can play them on Tuesday!


In my classroom, there's a plethora of Batman things. I won't apologize for them. I think it's important for my students to know that teachers are actual real people with interests.

Which is why I think it's adorable that my students had this good luck card made for them last year during standardized testing:

Yup.  Even the third graders know what type of things are acceptable in my classroom, TMNT pictures being one of them!

An oldie but a goodie

I was looking through old facebook pictures of my classroom (because it's half time and my Arizona Cardinals are winning, so why not?) and I stumbled upon this old anchor chart:

I need to find it! I know I laminted it, so I didn't throw it away.

It's great for constructed responses where students need to analyze a character's change over time.  I will rewrite it to include "based on the text" stems so students know to go back to the passage for that textual support.

Considering this anchor chart is a few years old (aka pre-Common Core), I'd say it still does a pretty decent job at guiding student responses.  Besides, it's like Dr. Maya Angelou said:

It's time to do better.

I respond to feedback :)

I appreciate helpful suggestions on TpT. Well, in all academic categories really :)

I stress to my students so much the importance of giving concise, meaningful feedback to their partners with the goal of improving. It'd be pretty hypocritical if I didn't live by that same philosophy.

One kind person purchased my Percy Jackson teacher guide for the Last Olympian.  They said it was helpful (yay) but would have liked a list of definitions to accompany the vocabulary words.  Valid suggestion, I'd probably want that too.

So, I made one and posted it as a free product on my site.  If you like it, consider purchasing the product!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ninja words

I like, don't get me wrong...

but I much prefer ninja words.

Yes, you heard me,

Here are screenshots as to why:

Try one:, "lightning" being the word of choice

Lots of junk, lots of ads...

Now, let's try the same word at ninjawords:

There's no junk for my students to get distracted by PLUS ninjawords is so much faster when loading.  (As it should be, ninjas are mighty quick!)  Additionally, you can review your past history which is helpful for students.

There's your tech tip of the week!

Harry Potter character sort

I'm pleased to announce my Harry Potter character sort is now up on TpT!

Coming in at thirty five pages (yikes!), it's easily one of my largest sorts.  I made this center for all seven novels and included an "I don't know yet" section for students so the center can be used at any point in their magical adventure at Hogwarts.

I took past feedback into consideration and fit six descriptive words on each page rather than just 2 or 4, so you can save paper when downloading!

Teacher and student instructions are included :)

Snapshots of the product: (since TpT's are a little hard to see at times)

Cover: (don't worry, the border goes all the way around)



I intentionally made the cards similar in verbage so students would really have to pay attention to details!

Can you figure out who the cards are about?  Answers below!

Studies magic in secret: Harry (when at the Dursleys)
Has an invisibility cloak: Harry
Had an invisibility cloak: James Potter OR Professor Dumbledore
Discovers Fluffy: Ron OR Harry
Inherits the map: Harry (from the Weasleys)
Stole the map: Mad Eye (stole it from Harry so Snape wouldn't get it) OR the twins (from the filing cabinet)

Happy reading!

Word Work

I've switched up how I'm doing the layout of my small groups for reading.  Because we switch students, there's the awkward minute or so transition time that is lost instructional time.

So instead of waiting for everyone to come in, get settled, get out their fluency passages and charts, then give me a thumbs up to begin, we are going to start with affixes instead.

We have our ongoing anchor charts for affixes, but I'm going to start explicitly teaching them next week.

I decided to review ones they should be familiar with (re, un, s, es), then go through the rest of the year with roots & affixes.

My planned schedule is this:

Mondays: introduce prefix, suffix, practice with a few words of how the affix changes the meaning, add to anchor chart

Tuesday: review affixes, go over non-examples and any helpful hints.  This week, they need a quick mini-lesson on what happens if a word ends in y (change to i) and when to add es (ch, ss, x or sh) or just add s to make a word plural.

Wednesday: word sort (prefix, suffix, both, neither)

Thursday: decoding multisyllabic words: Isolate the affixes, chunk the rest of the word into syllables (identify with CLOVER), practice blending through

Friday: encoding: adding affixes to change the word's meaning

I made my template and posted my first one on TpT, which you can download for just a buck!  I did make the template with the swagger font, which you can snag for free here.  I made it editable, so you can change the font & the words if you'd like!

Friday, October 25, 2013

new stations

New stations are posted on TpT!

The first one is a survival sort. 

I created this one to go along with multiple novels that have survival as a theme.  I created this to go along with Lois Lowry's The Giver and Number the Stars; Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay novels as well as Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, Brian's Winter, Brian's Return, The River and Brian's Return. Students work together to sort descriptions into various categories: emotions, shelter, dangers, etc.  My students love playing this center and as an extension, coming up with new cards to add to our sort.  I love when they are invested in our activities.

The second one is responses to literature for Lois Lowry's Gossamer.

In this station, students draw from over 20 different response to literature cards based on the novel.  Students will respond to the literature, then discuss their answers with their partner or small group.

This supports the CCSS RL 5.1 (quoting accurately) and W 5.9a (response to literature) standards.

Centers one and two are available NOW!

I'm currently working on the next two, which should be available by Sunday.

The third station is based on the Harry Potter novels.  

Students will have to sort descriptions into the characters that are being described.  The center includes descriptions for all the novels and has an "I don't know this yet" section so students can use this sort for any of the seven novels.

This epic sort comes in at thirty five pages and is quite the steal!

The fourth station is also based on Harry Potter, but has students sort descriptions for the houses of Hogwarts.  


All of these stations are available on my TpT store.  Again, the first two are up now and the second two will be available by Sunday night :)

 If you purchase the products, thank you!  Please consider rating them as well :)

Thursday, October 24, 2013


My streak of productivity continues!

Much like the Red Sox, I am on a winning streak.  Except instead of baseball, my task is refining centers for next week.

I just finished my second center for Kate DiCamillo's novel The Tiger Rising.

For this sort, students are given clues about the characters and have to use details from the passage to determine which character is being named.  An answer key is included for the eleven characters from this novel!

You can snag yours here on TpT!

New center (finally!)

It's been a few weeks since I posted a product on TpT.  Well, since it's 5 pm on a three day weekend AND I'm prepped for next week, I figured I'd devote some time to making new centers.

In my small groups, many of my students are finishing up their first novels.  Since this is one of the first groups I've done Kate DiCamillo's The Tiger Rising with, I knew I needed to make some centers to use as a formative assessment.  I created a 17 page center, available here, for my small group to use next week.

In this center, students will match descriptions and quotes to the 3 main characters (Rob, Sistine and Willie Mae) that are being described.  Writing extension activites are also included! 

This goes great with my teacher guide, also available on TpT!

Happy reading :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kid vention

Today we went on our field trip to Kid Vention in Henderson:

On the way there, I read aloud The Lightning Thief on the bus.  Our sweet old bus driver was a little bit confused when I asked for the microphone to host a read-aloud, but he willingly obliged.  To be fair, I wasn't going to take no for an answer, so his compliance was appreciated :)

As a side note, the read aloud did not go as well as I expected.  I sat on my knees, facing the back of the bus and between the construction zones and swerving, got a little car (bus?) sick from reading.  Plus, some stinkers in the back were being disrespectful.

At least we tried to cram in more reading :)

We got to the ampitheater:

We saw four debates today:

And my students got really, really into it:

Hurray for democracy and voting!

Student Folders

This week was parent-teacher conference week.

Most of my families are great and realize that I am, in fact, doing everything I can to help their munchkins succeed.

One family asked for a folder for their son to help him stay organized:

 Together, we brainstormed a checklist for his folder and desk to help him stay on task:

I liked the idea so much that I offered it to other parents who mentioned their students were having difficulty staying organized and returning their homework.

So now I have 8 boys in my "folder club".  They'll check in with one another at the end of each day to make sure everyone has what they need to complete to be successful.

Debates and KidVention

Today we went to Kid Vention in Henderson for a field trip. 

It was a wonderful experience and I'm so impressed with how our fifth graders did! 
They were polite and respectful listeners.

On Monday, we worked on debates:

Our class had the topic: "Should recess be shortened to allow more time to eat?".  We made a pro's and con's list and students worked in teams to write their arguments.  Each side then picked two speakers to represent their side.

We had a practice debate before today's real one, after our field trip.

I'm proud of how well they did!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


We have been working on decoding multisyllabic words this week during our word study.

Well, day.  Monday was the only day we actually have word study since today was parent/teacher conference day, tomorrow is a field trip, Thursday is staff development day and Friday we are celebrating Nevada day and have no school.

I'm revising my small groups next week to start with blending through multi-syllabic words with a focus on specific affixes and roots.  We'll start with blending and word study, that way when students come in a minute or two late, they don't miss fluency and buddy coaching.

Our word attack strategy:

We also reviewed where to break apart syllables:

And hung this near our CLOVER chart:

Happy word work!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Rain Gutters

When I first entered my classroom five years ago, the place was a disorganized mess. 

One of the few things I kept from the previous inhabitant was a rain gutter.

I reinstalled it underneath my smartboard to highlight books of interest:

These books aren't able to be checked out because we are using them in small groups or during independent reading time.

Here is our collection of alternative fairy tales, which we used in writing:

These books are AMAZING for teaching perspective and point of view.  I snagged them on Amazon and my students adore them!

Here are our Greek mythology books:

My students are absolutely loving this unit!

Percy Jackson lessons

Today was a weird catch-up day. 

We took our landforms test, did a debate in preparation for Wednesday's field trip and analyzed The Lightning Thief.

We didn't get as far as I'd like, but they had some great discussions!

We started a family tree:

Looked at relationships between the Greek gods:

Tried to make an outline of camp half blood:

And perhaps my favorite part: foreshadowing.

We got to the end of chapter eight.  Spoiler alert...Poseidon is Percy's dad!

So we made a list of all the clues that Rick Riordan used throughout the text:

My students had some great "a ha" moments!

I love how great they're doing with our read aloud :)