Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book Club

With one month until our first ever Battle of the Books competition, my students are getting more competitive.

I was a little disappointed that a dozen of my students didn't show up for Book Club.  A few had been quite responsible and informed both myself and their team, before school, as to why they couldn't stay that day.  Others were reminded and gave rude responses (not okay, I don't like being smirked at by ten year olds).  Others simply didn't show up.  I was disappointed, but their team members were too.  We're going to do some reshuffling of groups because it's not fair to some students who are doing all of the work.  I told them they're free to change groups if they'd like, but they need to have that tough conversation with their friends about being let down.  

But I'm going to focus on the ones who were there and enjoyed the rare moment of our low numbers.  They seized the opportunity to get a little more...creative with their reading positions:

As long as they're reading, right?

Friday, February 21, 2014

I Have, Who Has Lakeshore Product

I don't normally blog about corporate products, but I've been extremely happy with this Lakeshore product:

This "I have, who has?" product has lots of great math topics that still align with the Common Core State Standards.

My students like to review in a small group:

They each have a few cards and once the card has been played, the student flips the card over.   Lakeshore also makes vocabulary, language and science ones :)

Just between you and me...

I'm often conflicted about what to do when students finish a test early.  Most want to stand up, return their test, dividers, highlighters and grab a book to read.

In theory, this is wonderful!

However, when some of my fast finishers do this, it quickly motivates other students to rush through as well.  In their rushing, they often skip questions or make careless mistakes.  

So instead I've started having them reflect on their learning on the back of their tests.

I merely ask them to tell me their "clicks and clunks" or to write me a letter.  I clarify that the information stays between me and them.  Sometimes I let them tell me about the story they're reading, what's happening at home, etc.

Here were some responses I got after their comma test:

She's good.

She loves reading!

While another went in depth about each and every subject she has in school.

At least they're taking ownership of their learning!

Some other responses that aren't pictured included confusion about where to place apostrophies to show ownership.  So we had a quick mini-lesson to clear up that confusion!

Building Number Sense

I stumbled upon this idea online:

I love it! It's easily recreatable and truly lets students see the value of numbers.  What a great, easy way to build number sense...especially in the primary grades!  This could easily be used to compare two numbers and to build on addition and subtraction concepts.  Families could easily work on math sense at home with these cards as well.

Site Wide Sale!

Teachers Pay Teachers (or TpT for short) has hit 3 million teacher followers.  In honor of this huge deal, everything in my store will be 20% off for their 2 day flash celebration.

Save the date:

February 27th and 28th

TpT promos will save you up to an additional 10% on top of my sale prices :)

With over 100 products to choose from, it's certainly cause for celebration!

Monday, February 17, 2014

New Product: Teacher Guide for The Slippery Slope

Several of my groups are working on The Series of Unfortunate Events, so I decided to revise some of my teacher guides to post on TpT.  When I revise, not only do I increase the difficulty of questions but also clarify ones that my students struggled with during our small group literature circles.

All of my products are "field tested" with my own fifth graders and they love our small groups.

This teacher guide comes in at 13 pages with vocabulary suggestions, comprehension questions, homework ideas and more!  Snag yours here!

More guides to follow, happy reading!

Self Assessing

In my classroom, we do a lot of formative checks for understanding.  Usually as part of the lesson's closure, I ask for their comfort level with the new content.

Sometimes it's as simple as thumbs up (I've got it), thumbs side ways (I'm confused) and thumbs down (I'm lost).

Sometimes they close their eyes so they can be completely honest with me...this usually happens when I get all thumbs up.  Not that I'm a bad teacher, but one fifteen minute mini-lesson doesn't lead to 100% complete understanding from 31 very different students.  So we try the quick response again, just with our eyes closed.  

We have a lot of conversations that learning is a process and it's okay to not have mastery over a concept.  We use the word yet a lot.  

We also do a 1, 2, 3 or 4 finger response.

1: I'm lost, I need help.  This corresponds with emerging on our proficiency scale.

2: I'm confused.  I'm starting to get the material, but I have questions.  This would be approaching on our proficiency scale.

3: I think I've got it.  This would be meeting.

4: I know I've got it and could explain it to my parents or neighbor.  This level of understanding has to be proven to me and would relate to exceeding.

I found this cute graphic on TpT:

And want it for my classroom!  Perhaps I could just recreate it with my students so there is more meaning.

We also do "clicks and clunks" as lesson closure.  They tell their neighbor what is "clicking" (making sense) and "clunking" (confusing).  I walk around listening so I know what I need to clarify the next day.

I also have them share their clicks on the way out the door with a fist bump.

It's great that they're familiar with assessing their own understanding and being reflective on their learning.  It's important for them to learn to self advocate and speak up with questions.  

Novel Guide: Maniac Magee!

I'm pleased to announce I've posted another teacher guide on TpT! It's my 105th product :)

The most recent is for Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee, which I'm currently reading with two different small groups.  

This novel does a great job at exploring race relations and will lend itself well to Black History month.  Scholastic has some great free resources that compliment my twenty four page novel guide!

I have included pre and post reading questions, extension activities, suggested vocabulary, comprehension questions with answers for each chapter and suggested homework questions.  Snag yours here!

Happy reading!

Sheesh, one holiday at a time!

I expect Valentine's Day celebrations to go hand in hand with President's Day.  However, I was shocked when I logged onto pinterest yesterday (that'd be February 16th) and saw a flood of crafty St. Patricks' Day classroom activities.  It's a month away! 

I know teaching things need prep...but we just got done with one holiday! I haven't even thought about putting away house hold decorations and am certainly not done eating the chocolates my munchkins spoiled me with!  

So I slowly, carefully backed away from the computer screen.  I'll look up St. Patty's Day things during our upcoming Reading Week since the fifth grade was assigned "Europe" for the global theme.  One of our spirit days is to dress up like our chosen continent, so perhaps I'll tie St. Patty's Day in with my Ireland attire.  Other than that, I have no idea what we'll be doing for the 17th of March and I'm okay with that.  There's a lot of learning in the next month to cover and plan for anyway.  We've got assemblies, testing, a snake expert coming, kickball (our first surprise monthly motivator) and more.  I need to write sub plans before I dive into the next holiday.

But in all seriousness, one holiday at a time.  Enjoy the moment instead of just rushing to the next event.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Card stock
A large game board or piece of cardboard
Monopoly pieces

I found this image on flickr:

And I want to make it!  But more importantly, I'd want my students to help make it.  I could have each group find the "golden line" or best quote from the book for the description.  They could vote on the books to determine placement on the board. 

How fun!

(I think the meaningful discussion would come from the analysis of quotes and determining the placement of the books.  They could justify their thinking as a written response, stating why that book has earned that placement).


I just determined my end of the year bulletin board!  Done!

Happy reading :)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Annotating Their Thinking...

We've been working on "stop and jot" where students "read with a pencil" to record their thoughts.  Perhaps I've done too good of a job modeling my metacognition and what goes on inside my brain.

I was reading over their most recent tests and here are some favorites:

Text states: "Then, before flying a new airplane, NASA will test it in a wind tunnel to make sure it will fly as it should." (excerpt from What are Wind Tunnels? by David Hitt)

Her response? "oh, that's safe!"

There were also numerous "that's cool" and "that's big" comments, which made me giggle because this student legitimately got that excited on her reading test.

But my favorites:

Text states: "...some wind tunnels are made to test hypersonic speeds.  That is more than 4,000 miles per hour!"

Her response? "Oh, that's like how my mom drives."

Excerpt: "...the rebels didn't have enough gunpowder to shoot back." (from George vs. George)

Her response: "go buy some more, duh".  If only the rebels had it that easy!

Thank you child for your metacognition during testing.  I know you weren't trying to make me laugh, but you did.

A week in small groups

I spend 1/3 of my day doing small groups for reading.

My 12 groups range from DRA 40-70 and are split up by both DRA level and students' interests.  My afternoon group also has all the fifth graders in GATE/TAGs (advanced course work for gifted & talented), so I have to make sure to never schedule their group meeting days on Tuesdays or Fridays.  I also had to group them in the same 3 groups for this reason.

When they meet with me, we do close reads of important parts of the passage, go over comprehension questions, zoom in on vocabulary and work on predictions and inferences.  Lately they've been running more of their small groups, which is awesome.

We have daily word work and fluency practice.  I have to RCBM two kids a day (fluency progress monitoring with AIMSweb), so during this time, they read our weekly flueny passage (leveled passages from reading A-Z).  During that time, they coach each other on the components of fluency (rate, expression, accruacy and phrasing) to help each other improve.  By doing the same passage over the course of the week, they practice repeated reading and their accuracy improves over the course of the week.  I get to use this time to progress monitor so I don't fall behind on my case load.  I love that we multi-task and it's not wasted time.  

We have been working on weekly "must do's" as well with the A/E/I/O/U strategy and our science readers.  I chose informational text because they struggle with main ideas and supporting key details.  In fifth grade, they are expected to pick out the main ideas and make connections within text, including scientific ones.  Our science CRTs (standardized tests) are up first on the testing calendar, so I'm utilizing old science content to not only review science material but informational text as well.  If I give them a task, there should be a clear focus!  (Or in my overachieving case, several)

Here are some snap shots of what they're doing when they're not at my kidney table:

Collaboratively adding details about the characters in their novels on their large graphic organizers.

Using fifth grade description cards to analyze characters.

Responding to a post on kidblog.

Referring back to the text for evidence in a written response

Keeping track of characters in a novel

Collaboratively recording information about the novel, including juicy words, character development and settings.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Word Problem Wednesday

For our number talks, we switch up the focus each day.  Today's was a word problem:

We are working on critical thinking.  I let them use dry erase markers on their desks to solve the problem:


And they loved it!  I liked that I saw a variety of strategies being used (pictures, numbers, etc).  They really enjoyed writing on their desks! (My little rebels)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A/E/I/O/U Strategy

It's always best to try to stay one step ahead of these lively students, so I'm continually looking for new strategies.

I adapted one of Discovery Education's strategies for my classroom.  I'm keeping their name of "A/E/I/O/U".  

While reading our science readers, they had this task:

Write about:

One A ha! moment (something new and exciting)

One emotion envoking moment (curiosity? confusion?)

One interesting fact

One oh? moment  where they learned something new

One uh? moment where some new piece of information was "clunking" with them (not making sense).

We did 2 different passages this week and they did a fairly good job at adapting to the new strategy!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Valentine's Day Sale!

In honor of Valentine's day, I'm having a sale focusing on one of my great loves--reading!

All of my teacher guides for small groups will be on sale from February 12 to the 15th!  You can visit my store here to snag these goodies at 10% off!

Happy reading!


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Quick & Easy Strategy for Students

I have some fifth graders who like to rush through their work.  I also have some kiddos who get overwhelmed by an activity sheet, so I found an easy strategy for both.

Take an ordinary file folder:

Cut the front side into several parts:

And viola!  

For fast finishers, they have to have the top part complete and correct before moving on. 

For students who are overwhelmed, they can only see part of the activity and tend to be less anxious about the work.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

New Product: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda teacher's guide on TpT!

For Battle of the Books, I challenged my students to read at least 3 of the 8 selected books for this year's competition.

It seemed fair that I try to do the same.

I just finished Tom Angleberger's The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and thought it was cute. 

 A tad predictable, but I like how this book is organized with different characters telling different chapters.  It lets students experience how different characters react to different events and challenges their critical thinking.

I created an eighteen page teacher guide, which you can snag here!  I included pre and post reading activities, suggested vocabulary for each chapter, comprehension questions with answers, homework questions and more.  

"Visit my TpT store, you must." -Yoda
(Okay, not really, I was just channeling Dwight!)

Happy reading!

New (math) Strategy

During our intervention block this week, we've been using Discovery Ed testing to review previously taught math standards.

I had them using white boards & markers last week so I decided to switch it up. 

Each group got scratch paper and every student got a different colored marker (for accountability purposes).

I'd pose the problem on the board and they'd start working independently on solving.  Pretty standard procedure in a classroom.

However, I switched it up by having them rotate their papers at my whistle.  They had to jump right in and work on continuing how their neighbor had started solving...which wasn't necessarily their strategy.

I liked that this strategy stressed solving the problem different ways.

We switched a few times, then they discussed the strategies as a group.  I love when they can engage in such meaningful math discourse and model their thinking a variety of ways.

I'm thinking about trying this strategy next week with written responses as well.  Or perhaps as a quick write to warm up for writing.

There's something extra fun about using markers in the classroom.  The students are so much more engaged, which is wonderful.  Bring back the joy!

Character Traits Cards

We've been doing a lot of work with comparing and contrasting in our small groups.

I've been using character trait cards to help my students build their vocabulary.  Instead of using "dead words," they are focusing on that juicy vocabulary when describing their characters.

I gave them a pack of trait cards and had them discuss as a group which descriptions would align with the characters in their small group novels.  They also had to justify to me why they'd use those specific character traits.

From there, they added the words to their individual character maps:

Then combined their thinking on their group chart:

Due to space, I've been sending them into the hallway to work.  I've got the door propped open and I can see them at all times, so that's not a safety concern.  That way they can talk in a whisper (or as much of a whisper as excited ten year-olds can manage) and not disrupt those students who are silently reading.

(Silently reading and going back to the text for evidence? Score!)

I had another teacher listen in on them while she was observing a classroom and I loved her positive feedback.  Not only was my Harry Potter group on task the entire time (which is a feat within itself!) but they were using those descriptive words to compliment one another.  

She specifically remembered: " (Student's name), you are just as smart as Hermione!"

So cute.

I'm proud of them for really trying to be kind to one another, even when they don't think any teacher is watching.  Well done fifth graders!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Tech Support from Facebook

I have a teacher facebook.  

It's in no way linked to my personal one and I use it as an extension of my classroom.  It's a nice way to remind students and parents about what upcoming events we have happening at school.

I'm friends with current students, parents, former students and other colleagues.  My profile picture is of the sign outside my door and I think every other status is related to books or being kind.  There is truly nothing on there that I wouldn't feel comfortable showing my principal...or her boss.

I had a message from a student that she had something urgent she needed to ask me.

Immediately I went into uber-protective teacher mode and assuming the worst.  Was she being bullied?  Is there a problem at home?  

Oh no.  

Her urgent question was how to customize her Google chrome background because she was jealous of my Avengers one.

These are the urgent problems my kiddos need help fixing!

I walked her through it because well, who wouldn't want an Avengers background?!

I love that they feel comfortable asking for help and that I've created a safe space for them.  Obviously technology is important and part of my job is to turn them into digital citizens (one customized background at a time!).

On a side note, we had the impromptu mini-lesson that we DON'T WRITE IN ALL CAPS because it looks like yelling on the computer.  I'm glad they're enjoying blogging so much!  It's so great that they're internalizing that they're writers and have different audiences.

(We did have to have the conversation that LOL JK :)  does not belong in our final draft papers.)

At least they're learning and enjoying it!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

My First Post...

My first post is up!  Well, my first one on the other blog :)

As I shared in a previous post here, I'm excited about this new adventure and opportunity!

In my welcome post, I encourage readers to go on a grand literary adventure.  My favorite part of my day is reading books with kids and watching them get so excited about their learning.

So I'm going to take my own advice, enjoy this rare rainy weather and curl up with a new book!

Happy reading :)

Student Work Samples

This week we've been doing writing extensions in small groups.

Reader's theater scripts:

I'll have them pick a part of their novel and create a script:

One girl even color coded the parts! How cute :)

It's important to me that my students make written connections with their work and these extensions are a great way to challenge students.  I love how excited they get about reading!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Morning Memes

In an effort to add some more joy in the classroom, I borrowed my neighbor's idea for a morning meme.

Instead of me nagging them about various things, I've decided to find memes to do the work for me!

So today, they were greeted by Ms. Beyonce:

They laughed and I got my point across.  I'm super excited about our new routine!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

DENSI 2014...apply now!

Last summer, I had the awesome opportunity to attend DENSI 2013 in Burlington, Vermont.  

It was a week jammed full of networking, technology and learning :)

Applications for DENSI 2014 are now available here!

I encourage fellow educators to apply! 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Equivalent Fractions Bingo

During our intervention block, we've been working on equivalent fractions.

By no fault of their own, our kiddos have a very limited understanding of what fractions mean so we've been doing a lot of whole group intervention.

I found this adorable freebie on TpT, created by Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas and available here that has been so much fun for my kiddos!

She's also made Darth Vader & Princess versions, which my other small groups enjoyed!

I love doing math stations because it's a formative assessment and I can pull small groups.  I love hearing their discourse (discussions) and how they help each other find equivalent fractions.