Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What Works Wednesday

I have severely neglected this blog lately. Like most of us, I am spending more time on non-teaching school related necessities, and find I have little to no leisure time. I am looking forward to the long weekend, and a chance to rest, relax, and read blogs.
As a teacher, I am always reflecting on my teaching. With the changes to our teacher evaluation system, I have to gather evidence for my teacher binder. To help me stay focused and sort through the bits and pieces I am gathering, I am starting a weekly post called "What Works Wednesday."

As a topic for the first post, I thought I would share a strategy that I saw on Mrs. White's 5th Grade blog, called "Keep It or Junk It". She included a video showing how an instructor got students to analyze non-fiction text.

It got me thinking about how I teach text coding. I decided to put text coding with the "Keep It or Junk It" strategy, and would tie the whole thing together with a Two Dollar Summary.

I used a non-fiction article on Whales and Dolphins. It is part of an ebook available from Scholastic, 24 Non-fiction Passages for Test Practice for 4-5 grade. Students read in cooperative groups and used text coding to mark the key words and ideas. Then they compiled a group list of must have words. The groups then worked to establish a class list. We did "Keep It or Junk It" to narrow our list. Students used fingers to show if we should keep, junk or cloud a word (1, 2, or 3 fingers). "Clouding" a word saves it for a review when the other words are finished. Often, a clouded word is not the best choice, so it is ultimately "junked".

It was interesting to listen to their justification for keeping a word, or "junking it". When finished, students used the words to write a two-dollar summary. In a $2 summary each word counts as ten cents. Students have $2 to spend on their summary. They learn to quickly pare down their word choices to be concise.

Why would I choose this idea as a "What Works Wednesday" post? Students worked quietly, were actively engaged, and wrote a good summary. Also, I have a student with a one-to-one aide that struggles with communication. Most of his curriculum is adapted. (We did this activity "on our own", with out his aide.) The students in his group came up with their own way to make sure he could communicate his "keep it" words. They wrote the words "Keep It" and "Junk It" on paper. He held up his response. If he wanted to "Cloud" a word he signaled a circle. When I called on him to justify, he could say, "Not needed" or "Important." Watching the episode lay out in front of my eyes without any teacher or aide intervention choked me up.

 In closing this post, I have to say the first "What Works" would be "Keep it or Junk it, and my kids. They are amazing!

I will be back with another "What Works" next Wednesday. Join me! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Two in a row, and it's a giveaway!

Can you believe it? I am actually posting two days in a row. I cheated and prepared this post yesterday and set the scheduler for today.

I was recently contacted by with an offer to review their products. I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I wasn't aware of the wide variety of stamps that the company carries. They have some great motivational stamps, as well as teacher necessities. Check out the variety of stamps on their site. They are willing to donate a set of stamps to one of my followers. Their selection of self stampers are economical. They have a stamp for all your classroom needs.

As you can see, I chose a few stamps to save me time. The stamps are small, but I like that I can fit them in my bag. They reduce my need to add the message to the student's paper. I like anything that saves me time. They are all self-inking. The black one has a little reversible pad that extends its use. I love that the ones that need to catch attention have the red ink.

What stamp would you choose? Tell me your favorite in a comment, as you enter my giveaway to get your own stamps.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 11, 2013

It's Monday!

Today is Monday. It is one of my favorite days of  the week. I am a creature of habit and need my  routine. I also love Mondays, when it is the "the Monday" for Made Its because I like to read all of the posts on Tara's Linky.

I made some clipart after being inspired by Food Network. I was watching a baker decorate cupcakes and thought they looked so good and would be fun to make. Unfortunately, I hate to clean up the mess associated with baking, so I thought I would make some virtual cupcakes instead, using my favorite drawing app, iDraw.

Once I had the clipart made, I needed to use it on something,so I made a compound word center for word work.  I actually made it for a new teacher. She has lots of centers for the previous grade level she taught, but has been scrambling to gather things for the new grade level. She is amazing. She was hired the night before Open House, and was ready to roll by the next afternoon. I send her links to so many fabulous freebies when I can.

The next few things I made were actually just print, cut, and laminate projects. I saw Diane's Freebie on Educents, and knew I had to have it. I saved some ink by using some colored cardstock, but like how it turned out. I got my neighbor to also get it from Educents. She is now a fan of Educents and Diane's work.

Diane, from Fifth in the Middle, has become one of my favorite bloggers to follow. She is so creative. I just got her fabulous "Thanksgiving Common Core"ses centers for upper elementary students. It is perfect for my centers for the holiday. Thanks for sharing the resource, Diane.

My last project was another one of those print and laminate projects. This one was from Jason's Online Classroom. If you haven't looked at his TpT store, you should. It has some great resources for common core. The project I am finishing this Monday Made It with, is a Thanksgiving "I have...Who Has?" game. It is a freebie, and that makes it that much better. 

Now I just have to cut out the pieces. I cannot wait to use it in my classroom next week. My kids will love the new additions to my centers, and a fun game to play before our much needed long weekend. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Oh, No! November!

Time is just flying by. I cannot believe it is November already. Linking up with Farley for her Currently Party.
I am listening to Guy Fiery and the Food Network. That is a mistake when you are hungry! 

I am loving the beautiful fall colors. The trees in my yard have never looked so lovely. I especially love the crimson colored maple outside my bedroom window.

The youngest turned 18 a little over a month ago. She has quickly grown up into a lovely young lady. I took her Senior pictures (long story) and printed one for the yearbook. It seems like yesterday she was just a peanut. She just came home after helping a friend distribute Halloween candy. Our trick-or-treating was delayed by torrential rains on Thursday. I think she may have scared a few little ones tonight. 

As BeetleJuice
I could use a day off. I have to make it to next Friday, after a marathon of conferences on the 14th to get a day. I cannot wait! I would rather wait, than get one with a sick day, as I am beginning to battle a serious respiratory infection.

I should be doing my grades. They are due at 8:00 AM tomorrow, but with a brand new secretary beginning tomorrow, and the backup grade book "queen" being put on mandatory maternity bed rest, I don't think the deadline matters.
My yummy pin is inspired by the fall season. Pumpkin Pie Yogurt Smoothies.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

Walking to Learn

Today is the end of our marking period. It has been a rocky ride so far. We have had so many changes coming at us that most of the staff feels overwhelmed. A few of the changes have been a new principal (and new expectations), a new version of our online grade book that needs Internet Explorer, mandated posting of plans online (needs Google Chrome), collecting evidence for our teacher evaluation evidence binders, etc. This doesn't begin to address the need to find materials to meet the academic needs of my students. I am spending longer and longer days at school, including weekends, to get myself prepared. I am making things to meet the needs of students. Don't get me wrong, there are a few bright moments in my days, actually 53 to be exact. I love my kids. We are enjoying the part of the day we spend together.

One thing that we have really enjoyed are our walks. You would never guess by looking at me (no picture on this site for a reason) that I value physical fitness. My own asthma and other health issues prevent me from running, but I walk whenever I can find the time. During Cross Country season, my walks are from one place on a course for picturing taking, to another, then on to the finish line.

Two years ago, I got a pedometer for a student that wouldn't participate in gym, and got him to move. He lost weight, and slowly integrated himself back into gym class. He earned a good grade for the first time. Personally, that semester I walked 100 miles as part of a staff challenge.  This summer, I walked over 50 miles in less than a month (read about it here). Recently, my walks have been on our campus at school. I walk with students two to three times per week, with two classes, as part of "The Walking Classroom".

WalkKit with LogoI read about "The Walking Classroom" on a blog last year. (I don't remember which one, because I read so many!). When I read about "The Walking Classroom", I knew I had to be a part of this. I was awarded a classroom set of Walk Kits and a walking curriculum. The Walk Kit is like an mp3 player with over ninety podcasts aligned to common core. Students listen to the podcasts as we walk. The podcasts discuss language arts, social studies and science topics. We recently listened to a podcast on "Who's on First". The kids loved it. They liked the play on words, and it got them hooked on walking. They keep asking to walk more. Parents and a grandparent have signed up to walk with us. We have a set course we do most of the time because I have a wheelchair bound student. When we walk without him, we go around the playground and sports complex, with him we stick to blacktop and sidewalks. Even on cold days, the first thing students ask is, "Are we walking today?" I include some pull-out students that are not in my reading or language arts classes. It helps them feel like they belong.

After the walk, students discuss the topic in class, take a quiz over the podcast, and may use the podcast as a springboard for another assignment. When you are getting more and more frazzled, consider taking a walk. Even better, take students with you.

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