Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pinky promises

On more than one occasion this year, I've had my students pinky-promise not to read ahead on novels or see the movie before we're done with the book.

Since we're doing The Lightning Thief as a read aloud, many students have promised not to see the movie (or its sequel) until we are done.

We will be viewing the movie in May (after standardized testing) so students can compare & contrast the film adaptation with the book.  I love how excited they are about Greek mythology!

I also just started Catching Fire with a group and they also pinky promised not to see the movie until we're done (hopefully by winter break).  I love how excited they are about reading :)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Classroom motivator

I've struggled this year with my students turning in homework. I'm fully aware of the research that traditional homework in elementary school isn't very beneficial, but their homework is reading logs (we expect nightly reading) and math review.  

Instead of being negative and always assigning detention, I've decided to try a more positive approach instead.

Each week that my students bring back their completed homework, they will earn a piece toward our Mr. Potato head.  When our spud is fully assembled, they'll earn a prize.

However, I didn't go for any ordinary Mr. Potato head.  Oh no, I ordered this mermaid version instead:

We shall name her Ursula and she shall have a place of honor in our classroom!  Amazon will deliver her next week :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

tracking writing

I've toyed with a variety of strategies over the years of how to keep track of my writing conferences.  I know some teachers utilize their iPads, but I guess I'm just a fan of an old school strategy:

Using a notebook, I put tabs down the side for students, allotting 2-3 pages for each.  I write notes in the front cover about who needs what mini-lessons and form flexible small groups from there.

I start the beginning of the year with them analyzing themselves as writers.  When they meet with me for the first time, they share their strengths, weaknesses and about their favorite piece of writing.

I try to conference with a few students a day but I like my notebook strategy because I can easily share the data with my writing co-teacher.  We can both hold conferences without having to worry about iPad passwords :)

Plus it's easy to see their progress over the year!

Percy Jackson sort

We are in the middle of the Lightning Thief, so I had my students complete one of our sorts:

They aren't done with the novel so they weren't able to fully complete the sort (since it was made for all 5 books) but they still loved the challenge!

Your students can too, grab yours here :)

(It's also on sale for Black Friday!)

Science strategy

We were reviewing erosion and deposition, so I tried a new strategy:

I gave them a paragraph with out they key words and they had to work together with their partners to figure out what was missing.

They did pretty well with figuring out the big concepts :)

More text structures

Now that our fifth graders have learned about text structures, we're having them work in table teams to read various articles or old copies of Time for Kids to determine which type is used.

They had a guided organizer in their notebooks that they're adding to as they discover the structure of different articles.

They did a really great job with modeling their thinking and working with their partners.  We read The Scoop on Dino Poop, Jack Roosevelt Robinson and several different articles on the history of Thanksgiving.

We had them compare & contrast the text structures.  Monday we'll write a guided group constructed response about the text structures :)

Cyber Monday Sale!

In honor of cyber Monday, all of my TpT products will be 10% off!

Happy Thanksgiving :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I will preface this post with the fact that I never student taught nor have I been a substitute. I only know the prep from a teacher's side and well, I put hours into prepping my activities for a sub. I get irritated when my plans are completely disregarded.

I know students won't behave perfectly with a sub.  However, today's sub was awful. It was for another classroom.

This sub fell asleep while proctoring an assessment. FELL ASLEEP. 

I'm pretty sure that's frowned upon in any situation, especially in a room with about three dozen ten year olds in the classroom.

What makes it worse is this individual used to be a teacher.

For shame.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Text structures

We spent last week and this upcoming week working on text structures with our students.

We used this great resource from on text structures where students had to sort paragprahs into the categories of informational text.

We also looked at the five types: description, compare & contrast, cause & effect, sequence/chronology, and problem & solution.

Since my students mix up problem & solution with cause & effect, I used a little help from my iPad to clarify the difference: 

I have a clear cause (the angry birds) and then the effect(s) are when the structure falls down and the pigs die because of the birds.

In candy crush, I have a problem and if I'm stumped, the game gives me recommended solutions (game hints).

We're still working on text structure next week with reading different informational articles and analyze them for their purpose and text structure, but they're doing a good job with it :)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Said is Dead

While some times it's a necessary word, I'm close to the point of banning "said" in my classroom.  It's a dead word. It's an overused word.  So I showed my students images and had them come up with more descriptive ways to show dialogue (older post).

Here's our co-created anchor chart:

They've done a much better job at revising their writing for more descriptive terms!


As of this morning, I've sold 202 products on TpT with hundreds more in free downloads!

I'm really glad that I can share the products I make for my students with others around the country.  

Thank you to my followers and for those of you who have rated my products and given feedback.  I read every suggestion and am continually trying to improve as an educator.

If you haven't looked at one of my freebies, I encourage you to do so (and rate it)!  It's free to sign up for a TpT account and you get ten free downloads a week, which is pretty great too.  

More products will be coming soon, report cards just take a higher priority! :)


Sometimes my students leave me notes on the bottom of their assessments. 

If they're done early, I have them reflect on their learning by telling me their clicks and clunks.

Instead of having them get up, turn their privacy screens and tests in, which causes other students to rush and be done too, I have them sit at their seats and just reflect on their learning.

I got this note today on the bottom of a student's test:

Her group is reading another novel instead of the Reptile Room next (Series of Unfortunate Events) but I told her we might come back to the Reptile Room and she can always check it out from the library.

I'm glad she's enjoying reading more.  It reminds me of why my job matters.

Up close and personal with erosion

Since we switch students for science, I get to teach the FOSS Land forms kit four times.  Since this kit is my favorite, it works out nicely :)

(Coincidently, all four of us got our favorite kit to teach! I think it definitely benefits the students when we're excited about what we're teaching)

We've learned about maps (physical, political & topographic) as well as land forms and globes, so it was time to investigate.

We were looking at how a stream table changes an environment.

My students got up close and personal with the process of erosion:

I use the pictures of their actual investigations in my power point and we then talk about how the canyon was formed, deposition and alluvial fans.

Next we see what happens when we add a slight elevation:

The result is the alluvial fans tend to be larger and the earth material is more widely displaced within the table (deposition).

Next week we'll try it with floods :)

Of course, they have to record in their science notebooks and make a hypothesis:

I love how excited they get about sand, clay and water!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Harry Potter

My students were working on the Harry Potter sort:

Since I made the sort for all the novels, I included an "I'm not sure yet" category for students!

They try to do this sort every 2 weeks or so and are pleased when they figure out a new piece of information about a character that they can add!  

Snag yours here!

(I do have a chronological sort freebie that you can also try out to see if you like my products!)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New anchor charts!

Here are some of our updated anchor charts:

Theme and constructed responses:


Greek & Latin Roots:

Inflectional Endings (phonics):

I need more wall space!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Catching the Catching Fire Spirit!

Catching Fire is released soon. Like really, really soon.  I'm waiting until Thanksgiving Break so I can see it with my best friend when we are back in our home town, but I'm still ridiculously excited.

In the spirit of the upcoming movie, all of my Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay products will be 20% off from Thursday, November 21-Saturday November 23rd.  This includes quote sorts, novel guides, chronological order centers, the works!

Spread the word and may the odds be ever in your favor :)

Happy reading!

Shhh...upcoming sale!

I love Black Friday.  I love sales.

So I'm pleased to announce I'm throwing my first ever sale on TpT!

All 13 of my Percy Jackson products (teacher guides, character analysis sorts, centers) will be 10% off from Nov 27-30th!

Spread the word!

(Update: since I just figured out how to create the sale, I made a second one too!)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

RACE strategy

During our intervention part of the day, I've been working with students on subtracting decimals to the thousandths, figurative language, theme and poetry.

We moved into working with constructed responses and one of my favorite strategies is RACE:

RACE stands for:

Restate the question.  Students use words from the question to formulate their opening or topic sentence.  This helps them to focus their answer.

Answer the question(s) that are asked.  For our district, constructed responses tend to have several parts and it's important for students to answer all portions.

C: Complete sentences.  Students need to remember the rules of grammar, spelling, etc when writing their responses.  We went over that one sentence does not suffice.

E: Evidence your answer, twice.  This helps them with main idea and key supporting details, as well as quoting accurately or inferring details from the passage.

Post Card Fun!

In my former blog Project Postcard, I asked for post cards from around the world so my students could study geography.  I'm pretty well set for the United States, but if you're abroad and in a cool place, send me one!  (Also, if you're near Mount Rushmore, I would like one for that monument so I can discuss human-enviornment interaction, which is one of the five themes of geography).

Today we had ten minutes left after our vocabulary review and since it was Friday, I couldn't set up the next activity because air would dry out our clay/sand models that we'll use for stream tables next week.  

So we went on a photo safari instead.

I passed out groups of post cards to each table team and had them talk about the landforms they saw.

They did a great job with coming up with questions without even being asked, which of course is wonderful!

Yes, they got a little too loud but it was nice to walk around and hear them getting so excited about mountains.

Here are some snap shots of my young scientists:

Zacatecas, Mexico

Northern Lights, San Fransisco and Alscase, France

St. Louis and the Atlantic Ocean

Yellowstone, Michigan and Big Bear Lake (CA)


Meteor Crater (AZ) 

Great Wall of China and Hawaii

Atlantic Ocean and Alcase, France

A beautiful mountain (I couldn't see the back of the post card, they weren't very eager to share with me)

Thank you for all the post card donations!  

I love when my students get so excited about science and geography.  We made some great connections with the 5 themes of geography.  You can download my TpT freebie about geography here!  If you like it, please rate it and give feedback :)  If it didn't quite meet your expectations for a free product, I'd like to hear that constructive feedback as well!

New Colossus

In whole group reading, we are loosely following another school district's long range plans and mentor texts.  They did a good job with spiraling and using authentic literature & informational text for the Common Core State Standards.  

We worked on poetry and many students were struggling with identifying theme, looking for figurative language and summarizing stanzas.

So their must do this week involved the poem New Colossus.  I picked this poem because it is challenging and within the 5-6 band of suggested poetry.  

Each day they read the poem independently with a different purpose.  Thursday they compared notes with a neighbor and Friday we talked about it as a class.  

Here are some snap shots of their note taking:

I think they did a great job.  A few figured out the poem was about the Statue of Liberty, but once I revealed that, there were quite a few "a ha!" moments, or as we call them, brain fireworks. 

I then had them reread the poem, this time looking for clues that the poet used to reveal the subject of the poem.

They had a lot of fun with it, so I think I'll make a poetry station where they glue in poems & practice this strategy.  I'll type up a list of what I expect for each read through and have them switch marker colors each time they read.  By doing one marker color per read/per purpose, it holds them accountable to all the steps without them even realizing it :)

Happy reading!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Paper slide

This afternoon, only one of my small groups came prepared to discuss our novel :(

So instead of wasting time, I complimented the student who was prepared, had the others write apology notes for wasting learning time and gave extra time to my other small group.  

We went over our interesting words, character changes, etc before I presented them with today's fun technology challenge.

Last night, I attended a Discovery Education Ambassador meeting (I'm a DENStar and ambassador for my school district, plus a DENSI alum so naturally I was there).  We talked about lots of strategies and I decided to use one of them today.

They had 15 minutes to design and create a paper slide. 

Working together, they did a mighty fine job!

Their finished product can be viewed here!

The video was filmed in the hallway without microphones on my iPad.  Obviously I'll make tweaks for next time!

My brain is teaming with ideas of how to use this strategy again!