Tuesday, December 31, 2013

DENSI 2013

For the past two years, I've been working with Discovery Education as an ambassador/DENStar for my school district.  

We've adapted their Launch into Teaching assessments to measure students' academic growth, but we focus more on the tools on their website.  From video streaming and board building (similar to glogster)  to online tech books and virtual labs, Discovery has a lot of tech tools available for teachers.  They also have a plethora of audio clips and images as well as suggested lesson plans, which come in very handy! 

They also have the Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute (DENSI) each summer.  Last year, I attended in Burlington, Vermont and had an amazing time.  Once again, I was the sole representative for my state so I was a little overwhelmed at first but by the end of the week, felt right at home.

I was placed in a dorm with 3 other ladies, 2 who were veterans and another newbie from California.  

DENSI was a mix of key note speakers, hands-on sessions and break-out sessions.  I set up twitter for the first time at DENSI after learning about how this social media tool could be used for professional development and teacher networking.  I tried my hand at geo-caching and well, I'm not very great at it (yet?).  We learned about sustainable farming and I milked a goat for the first time. 

(That was an interesting experience to say the least.)

We played with different apps and talked about classroom application.  We learned about chromebooks and I learned all sorts of things my new GS4 could do!  We learned more about video streaming and using Skype in the classroom.

Besides being a techy's dream, it was a wonderful opportunity to meet other teachers from around the United States and Canada.  Here is the list of attendees and their prospective websites. 

I think what I enjoyed best was the time to sit in small groups and talk about best teaching practices.  One teacher was struggling with his math block, so we talked for over an hour about restructuring it for effectiveness.  Since I want to be an academic coach, it was a great, unexpected opportunity for professional growth.

Snapshots from the week are here in dropbox.

PLUS I got a sneak peek of Shark Week! I LOVE Shark Week...and my new beverage holder!

I loved DENSI 2013 and would highly recommend the professional development.

I can't wait for Discovery to release their applications for DENSI 2014!  As soon as they do, I'll post the link :)


Now that it's Winter Break, I have the time (sort of) to catch up on movies.

So I decided to check out the new(ish) film Sea of Monsters.

Like it's predecessor The Lightning Thief, I didn't love it.  It was cute, but I feel strays too far from Rick Riordian's novel to make me gush.  Granted, this director seemed to do a better job than the first one so that's a positive move.

However, due to the differences between film and novel, my students should be able to engage in great conversations about the similarities and differences between the novel and the film adaptation.

So I created a sort for them and you can snag it too here!

Just like my first one, this center has students sort task cards into categories:film only, novel only and both.

An answer key is included!

Happy reading :)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mickelson Exxon-Mobile Teacher's Academy (MEMTA)

If you have the opportunity and are eligible to apply for this fellowship, I strongly encourage it!

I had the privilige of representing my state (yes, I was the sole representative from my entire state) during the summer of 2012.  I loved the opportunity to network with fellow 3-5 teachers from around the world.

(Laura and I organized a surprise flash mob as a thank you for NSTA and Exxon.  Ponchos were involved. It was epic.)

We not only learned about science, but did science and math.  It was like science camp for grown ups!  For more information, visit NSTA's website!

(On a side note, we stayed right across the water from New York City and had evenings free to explore!  I caught a showing of Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, was on the jumbo tron in Times Square, visited the 9/11 memorial and took a horse drawn carriage ride through Central Park!)

(Plus, I met the Mickelsons!  They're also Arizona State Alums, so we're showing some Sun Devil love)

Apply! What do you have to lose?

End of Year Tax Donations

If you haven't used your end of year tax credit, consider making a donation to my students via donorschoose.org!  

The resources will be used by my students, shared with my grade level and very much appreciated!  Plus you'll get a snazzy shout out here!

New Sort! RL 5.7

So we read 90% of The Lightning Thief before winter break and watched the film adaptation on the last day of school for the calendar year.  In a perfect world, we would have finished the novel first but...that didn't happen.  

It was my first time seeing the movie and I must say, I wasn't too impressed. 

Yes, the film was cute but didn't really follow the book.  There were lots of differences and I'm glad my students picked up on these differences.  Comparing & contrasting a film with the text is a great, critical thinking skill to have!

(Plus it corresponds with RL 5.7 in the Common Core State Standards)

So I decided to make this into a sort where students can independently or collaboratively sort the descriptions into the following categories:

1. Just the book
2. Both the book and the film
3. Just the film adaptation

There are over sixty different task cards to sort and an answer key is included!

I'm excited to have my students try this center after winter break!  

You can download a copy here on TpT!

Class Jobs

While I already have a system for my classroom jobs...

I still think this freebie is adorable!  

Created by What the Teacher Wants, it appears to be in the same font as my classroom schedule.  I love when things match :)

I like that the jobs cards seem to go perfectly with the freebie calendar!

Yay for free things!

Upcycling for social studies

So I'm all for centers that give a fun twist on authentic, meaningful work.

My favorite new idea is taking an old "Guess Who?" game:

And upcycling it for social studies or book characters:

I think it'd be challenging for students but they'd love it!  I'd probably laminate the cards for durability but I think the few hours of teacher prep would be worth it.

Let's put the joy back in teaching :)

That's What He Said

I'm an advocate of integrating technology into the classroom.  I'm a "technology native" (as opposed to an immigrant) and whole-heartedly believe students must learn how to use different types of tech to be competitive later in life.  However, they've still got to learn critical thinking skills and I don't believe technology can replace teachers.

I earned my technology endorsement from Nevada State College and love using tools like kidblog, prezi, voki and more in the classroom!

I just stumbled upon this idea:

Naturally, my mind went to "that's what he said" comments...but here it could actually work in an academically appropriate way!

Simply insert speech bubbles in word over an image and tada!  Great group activity with minimal technology (for those who are hesistant about using tech).

This could be great to talk about multiple perspectives and as a culminating activity.  Easily differentiated and can be used with lots of academic subject areas.  What a fun way to add some joy back into the classroom :)

Enjoy!  Happy teaching :)

Friday, December 27, 2013

New Year's Resolutions, Classroom Style

Like I don't know, 95% of America, I've made my new years resolutions to start next week.  However, I started thinking about my classroom and resolutions that we could make there.

We talk a lot about goal setting and academic growth.  We will have a behavior assembly first thing in January because some of their choices are not appropriate and attitudes are escalating quickly.  I expect the hormonal shift around testing time (March) but I'm pretty sure this group came in sassy and with attitudes.  It's been a long, uphill battle to get the talking under control this year.

They're also getting new seats and assigned seats for all subjects, not just my homeroom.  That means their desks will have 4 names on it: whole group, small group AM, small group PM and science.  That way there's more accountability and less theft (fingers crossed).

So I think I need something like this:

I'll have them fill out their own reflective sheets and we'll make our own chart.  This image is from a primary classroom but I think the idea can be adapted for fifth.

We'll hit the ground running in 2014, testing is coming up and we've got to prepare them for success in middle school!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

#95! Comprehension Question Stems

I'm pleased to announce my favorite center is now available on TpT!

I'm an advocate of guided release, which means over the course of our school year, I relinguish more and more control to my students.  This comprehension station perfectly aligns with this teaching practice.

This mega center (50+ pages) includes question stems to help students guide their own discussions.  It is color coded and includes different fonts for easy clean up!

The skills that students will practice are:

Snapshots of the center:

This product is priced at $6.00 on TpT, which is quite a bargain considering it is 59 pages long!

The best part is this station can be used for literature or informational text! (The second best parts are that the center is in color and uses fun chevron prints!)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Novel Guides

Teacher guides for J.K. Rowling's The Goblet of Fire and The Half-Blood Prince are now available on TpT!  

Each guide contains suggested spelling or vocabulary words, pre-reading predictions, comprehension questions with suggested answers for each chapter, homework questions and post-reading extension activities!

Both guides are quite lengthy (28 and 33 pages respectively) and are quite the bargain! I've done the prep for you :)

Snag yours here!

Happy reading :)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Chronological Order Sort: Loser

I first read Jerry Spinelli's Loser over the summer after a retiring teacher gave me a few copies from his library. 

I love this author, so I immediately ordered a few more from Amazon so I'd have enough to read the novel with small groups.

I'm almost done with the novel with my group (they're finishing over winter break) and I'm really impressed with how well they're doing.  Some of the members of my small group have been bullying others, so I decided to use this text as a teachable moment.  

They're having some great discussions about being kind to others and labels like "loser".  What we talk about in our small group literature circle is having a positive impact on their classroom and playground choices, which is quite exciting.

My teacher guide is available here.

I'm pleased to announce I've made a chronological order sort as well!

Happy reading!

Elf on the Shelf, Classroom edition

Perhaps I'm a little behind on the times, but this was the first year I heard of the "Elf on the Shelf" phenomena.

I don't have children of my own yet, so I didn't see the point in purchasing one for myself.

However, after browsing pinterest, I kept seeing lots of ideas for a classroom adaptation.  Granted, there are blog posts like this that discourage the Elf, so you might need to treat it cautiously.  I'd set up the elf as a winter visitor without religious ties and send a note home to parents & families before hand to cover my self.

Fellow teachers at my school used it this year and said it was very helpful with management!

Here are some of my favorites:

I'd need my sign to say Winter Break, not Christmas break but still a cute idea

I could easily hide him/her in my bookshelves...

In this case, it'd need to say "I will be a good listener"

The elf could totally hang out with our school supplies...

Or take a nap with a tissue blanket!

Perhaps the elf could use technology to leave us  messages...

Creepy...but in a fun way.

I can definitely see the elf blogging!

This would be easy to duplicate!

We already have jenga boards that have been upcycled to be character questions or multiplication problems...

He/she could be reading our grade level read aloud...

Or be mischievious!

I'm a fan of these simple (no mess ones) as opposed to these ideas:

My classroom is messy enough. I don't need to create additional messy areas.

I think I may need to pick up my own elf for next year!  Of course, I'll wait until after Christmas when it's on sale :)

I'm still debating between the "traditional" elf (which apparently can be dressed up!) and this version:

We'll see what's on sale!  Good thing I've got a year to think about it!

Tech Tip: Dafont

One of my favorite places to download fun fonts is dafont.

There are free fonts & commerical fonts, so make sure to read the fine print.

You can navigate easily with a search bar or use their categories:

At the time of this post, there were over 22,000 fonts there!  

You download the files, extract them and save the True Text files in your "fonts" folder on control panel. (I'm a PC person...so MAC, I'm sure it's a similar process).

Find your file (I usually save to the desktop or my downloads):

Extract it:

Open control panel, find fonts folder:

Select fonts from extracted files:

Drag your new font over!

You may have to restart word for the fonts to appear as an option.  

Some of my favorites:

If you create something and want to send it to someone who might not have the fonts, be sure to save as a pdf rather than a word document.

Dafont isn't blocked on my school computer, so I was able to use these fonts in my classroom.  If it is blocked, create documents at home and send them to yourself as PDFs.


Just a few of my favorite (FREE) things

In the spirit of the holidays, I've decided to compile a list of some of my favorite free things, all from TpT.

I did not make these products but love using them in my classroom!

Item 1: Schedule Cards

These adorable cards were made by  Cara Carroll and available free here!  She's included so many subjects and they're perfect for almost any classroom.  

Here's a snapshot of them in my classroom:

When combined with green marker and a funky polka dot border, our schedule gets a lot more fun in fifth grade!  Since they have different specials each day, I just use a magnetic clip to keep them organized.

Item two: Star Wars fluency posters

I'm a nerd, I'll embrace it.  There are superhero and Star Wars things all over my classroom.  I'm not ashamed of it :)

So when I found these adorable freebies:

I literally squealed in delight!  Then of course, forwarded the link to my grade level because who wouldn't want R2D2 helping out their students?

This gem was made by Jane Loretz and is available here on TpT.  Use the force to go snag yours.

Item 3: Grammar Cheat Sheet

I struggle with teaching grammar, especially to my second language learners and inclusion students.  Maybe that's why I love this cheat sheet:

Created by Jen of Hello Literacy and available here, this cheat sheet is a great reference.  I have students place a copy in their writing binders as a resource.

Item 4: Bookmarks

While Carly Rae's song may be a little dated at this point, I still love these free bookmarks:

Available here and made by Kathryn, my students get a kick out of these.  Anything to encourage reading, right?

Item 5: Author's Craft

Another great freebie from Jen at helloliteracy!  

It goes great in our reader notebooks :)

What freebies would you add to the list?