Friday, March 15, 2013

Deer Lease

Yesterday Jackson, Laine and I went down to his lease in Gordon, TX. We planned on staying for the day and spending the night in the luxurious camper, but around 8 last night plans changed. We started out with some 4-wheelin, them some fishing, and finally some gun shooting. I actually shot my MILs 22 pretty well! It didn't kick at all and was pretty comfortable to shoot. Jackson decided he wanted me to try his Colt 45 and that ended with me getting a black mark on my chin, so that gun will have to probably stay Jackson's. After that we started a fire and grilled some hot dogs. Laine wanted to go back on the 4-wheeler and look for some animals, so we did. We rode around for a bit and then stopped to look at the sunset which was beautiful and heard rustling in the bushes. We saw an armadillo, but once Laine and Jackson got over there he'd already gotten away. Once we got back to camp we threw some rocks in the pond and Jackson of course showed me up by skipping rocks across the pond while I could only make it skip twice. This puts us to around 8 and we were all tired by this point. Laine started asking to go home, and I didn't help by talking her out of it. It's just that the camper was musty and old and the air conditioner was really loud. Since Laine was so adiment on going home, we did. Lets just say these city girls can only take so much of the country life!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Story mountain

This post is is directed towards how to teach plot through an activity called a Story Mountain. This activity shouldn't be done the first few weeks of school just because many of the elements need review. Kids should understand all parts of a story in order to successfully Colette this activity.

First, introduce the book you plan on reading and let them glance through the pictures. Once they've done that go over what a story mountain is and explain its a way to analyze a fictional story. As you read the book you should stop at each point on the mountain and on a sticky note write down what happens at each part. When you get to the problem, explain that when the problem is solved the resolution should connect back to the problem. Also, don't forget to explain that the resolution is NOT the end to a story.

Once you have modeled how to work through a story mountain then the next step would be for groups to complete one on another book you read aloud.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Amazon Games

I was looking around on Pinterest the other night and found two games that I thought my 4th graders would like. I seriously feel like a changed teacher now that I've found Pinterest! I bought Sumoku and Rory's Story Cubes from and I hope my kids enjoy them! I think both games will come in handy during Guided Math (read previous post about Guided Math) and writing workshop. Each year I have kiddos who can't think of anything to write about and I thought having story cubes that sort of put a story in order for students would be helpful. I'll be sure to do a post and update everyone on whether the games are successful!

Classroom Economy

I have been teaching for 5 years going on 6 and I'll have used Beth Newingham's Classroom Economy for all of those years except for my first. When I lived in AZ my friend and co-worker and I wanted to change the way we ran our classroom management. Our kids weren't responding to the obvious ways of behavior management so we started looking on-line and found Beth's website. She changed my life. If you click on her name in the first sentence then you'll be directed to her economy page on her class website. I do it all, store, credit/debit and check writing. I will tell you though that this year I am changing it up a bit.

Instead of having a credit/debit log, I am going to give students $70 at the beginning of each week. This is because they have to have at least $140 in their bank envelope (that they'll decorate the first week of school) at the end of every two weeks. I let them go to the class store every two weeks and they may buy two items, but two of the same items. I usually spend about $50 a month at Target in the dollar section to supply my store, but sometimes parents will donate trinkets and small games and stuff. If they earn more money for having good character qualities or answering a "jackpot" question, then great but if they lose more than $140 over the course of two weeks, then they may not shop in the store that week. What those children will get to do is write a letter to their parents, have it checked by me and signed by their parents explaining what happened and why they did not get to "shop". Mind you, the parent will probably already be aware of this matter because of the ever so important communication I have put in place.

The way I'll keep up with what they've paid me for losing money is by keeping a binder with paper in it where they'll sign, explain their behavior and write down how much money they put in the "money jar". If I notice a student has been signing often, then we'll have a conference and discuss what the problem is and a solution to fix it. At the end of each week, I'll check the binder and call each student to my desk to verify how much money they have and then I'll record that number in my gradebook and that will determine their conduct grade for the week. If they have less than $70 or they didn't get to shop at the end of the two weeks, then their grade will either be a S or N (satisfactory or needs improvement). If they have significantly more then their grade will be a M (mastery) and if they have slightly above that required amount, their grade will be a P (proficient). This is our grading policy..your district may have another way to keep up with conduct. I HOPE my new system will sounds promising. I'll post a pic of the jar and binder once I have them made :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Great Math Blog

I am always looking for new and different ways to teach math and I think this blog has really opened my eyes to a fantastic way to change the way I teach math concepts. The concept is really easy and if you're used to teaching your Language Arts block using Daily 5, then Guided Math should be a cinch to get started!

She starts the math block with a mini-lesson that is either a review from the day before, or an introduction to a new concept. Then, she breaks the kids up in to 4 groups. If you have a lot of kids and don't want to have large rotation groups, then you could have 2 groups doing the same thing. Her rotations are: card game, math game, individual work and work with the teacher. While she's working with groups, the other kids are completing review or skill building games on their own. I love her setup and can't wait to start giving it a try in my classroom!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Writing Folders

I have tried many different ways to keep the kids organized with all of their writing process papers. As we all know, we want to teach the kids to work through the ENTIRE writing process but along with that we end up with tons of either loose leaf papers or journals that are unorganized. For a couple of years I had the kids use a folder that had brads and two pockets. They would keep their ideas in one pocket, rough drafts in another and then their final copies would go in the brads. That idea wasn't bad at all, but the pockets would get so filled with paper that they would end up falling out on the ground all the time, or they would have to thumb through all of their ideas to find what they were looking for. Then, I used a composition journal for them to write everything down in. I had them dog-ear each 1/4 of a section and we tried to keep the sections organized, but really it was a big giant mess....

Until..I found Pinterest and was able to view some other teacher's brilliant organizational ideas for writing folders. I found this picture and rushed out to Walmart to get my own "4 pocket" folder!

This is not my actual folder creation, but the blog that I found it on on Pinterest. She did say that she messed up on the folder in this pic. You have to fold the middle folder in half and then bind it with the flap side facing in. I plan on using the folders in this order: 1) ideas, 2) rough drafts 3) ready to edit 4) final copies. I will then take their final copies, grade them, make a copy along with the rubric and send the original home. I hope this new and improved writing folder is a success!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Helpful Resources-Literacy

In my career of being a teacher I've come across a few resources that I have found to be extremely helpful. When I first started teaching, I didn't really understand the term "resources" and felt a little overwhelmed when I heard other teachers talk about using them. I thought at first that I'd be content with using the district adopted resources and wouldn't have to venture out on my own and find things that fit my style of teaching. After a year of teaching, I realized that branching out was a must and finding other ways to provide instruction was going to be necessary. Many of you have probably heard of some or all of the resources that I am going to share, but if you haven't please take a minute to check some of them out :)

A resource that I have grown to love is the "Two Sisters". These ladies have developed a management process called, Daily 5 that has taken education by storm. When I started teaching in my current district, our school adopted the Daily 5 technique and some of us really "took the bull by the horns" and some of the others called it a "wash". All of us though were required to read the book and do book studies with our teams and talk about how we planned on implementing the tool. I personally LOVE the 2 Sisters and have also been using the CAFE menu in my room as well. CAFE is just an acronym (Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency and Expand vocabulary) used to help kids pinpoint their areas of needed improvement in the above 4 areas. Students can become very apprehensive about reading at a young age when they are not able to recognize areas that are causing them to "not like" reading. It's our job as teachers to help them through those rough patches and encourage them to keep reading. I LOVE CAFE because it allows me to show them exactly what skill they need to focus on. I usually conference with all of my kids at least once a week and so we can talk about how they are going to work on the skill that needs improvement until the next time we meet

A terrific resource is the Lucy Calkins "Units of Study". I bought the 3-5 my first year after being introduced to her by my first assistant principal, Gina Mayfield. She wanted her fourth grade teachers to learn more about the "art" of teaching writing and there is no one better in my opinion than Lucy Calkins. When I moved to AZ and taught second for a year I persuaded my school to buy the primary units of study and to no surprise, they LOVED it too. So, I have used both resources provided by Lucy and love them both!

Oh, Razzle Dazzle! Razzle Dazzle is a book that specifies on the 6 traits of writing. If you're a Tx teacher, then you know that the TAKS is no longer our standardized test, so that means the writing instruction in your classrooms may change a bit. I believe Razzle Dazzle can still be a great resource to use even with the unknown writing expectations in the upper grades. This book is broken in to sections based on the 6 traits and offers short lessons that will enhance students' writing. They should NOT be the focus of your writing workshop lesson, but a secondary resource to emphasize your target skill for that day/week. Check it out here.

Readers' theater is another terrific way to get your kids excited about reading. I use this strategy religiously in my room and it is always a HUGE success. Many students struggle with fluency and readers theater is a wonderful way to incorporate fun and reading practice at the same time. There are tons of websites that are good for readers' theater, but one I have used before is Aaron Shepard. He offers many levels of scripts that are appropriate for all reading levels. I've also purchased a few good books that have scripts in them: "Readers Theater for Building Fluency" and "Readers' Theater grade 4". There are TONS more, but depending on your grade level it will determine which book you buy. Scholastic has lots of good resources on readers' theater.

Please let me know if you have literacy resources that you use in your classroom that you feel are beneficial for your kiddos :)