Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tried it Tuesday: The Best Sharpener Ever

Happy Tuesday! I am linking up with  Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried it Tuesday.
Those of you that have been in the blogging world for a while have probably heard of The Quietest Sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies. 

I had read a lot about these sharpeners for the last year and decided that I needed to try it out. I went onto the website to check out information about the sharpener and to see how I could go about ordering one. When I was there I was pleasantly surprised. I found a link that had video clips on how to use it, as well as how to fix it when the students get the tip stuck inside! I don't know about you, but that is the number one way my mechanical sharpeners break! I also entered a giveaway to earn one for free, and found that they are looking for guest bloggers to review their product!

I jumped at the chance to receive one for free. I completed the request and was e-mailed later that day asking me which color I would like to try. I then received my sharpener a few days later. As soon as it arrived I opened the package and searched high and low around my house for a pencil to sharpen! Much to my dismay I didn't find one! So over the weekend I decided to take a detour to school to try it out.

This sharpener is as awesome as everyone says it is!  I was on the phone with my mom (telling her all about our camping trip) and decided to try to sharpen a pencil. It was so quiet she didn't realize I was using it!

The sharpener also sharpens really well, much better than the electric sharpeners I currently have in my room. Plus the blue color is really pretty! I recommend trying it out for yourself. I was pleasantly surprised at just how great it is! My students love it too. They kept looking for pencils to sharpen whenever they had a free moment.

Don't forget to enter into my 100 Follower Giveaway. It ends on Friday!

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Monday, April 29, 2013

May Goals Linky and Giveaway

I can't believe it is only Monday...I think I am still tired from my camping trip last week.
I'm linking up with I {heart} Recess for her monthly goals linky party. I always ask my students to make goals, but sometimes I forget to make my own!

Personal-My husband is finishing up his bachelors degree, and I am in the "crazy" time of year at school. Sometimes we both get so busy we don't have a chance to really spend time together. He is my best friend and it makes me sad when we don't have time for each other!

Health-I have been doing Weight Watchers for over a year and am down 50 lbs. I've hit a plateau and really need to consistently exercise a few times each week to get over the "hump."

Blogging-I am so pleased with how far this blog has come in the last two months. I look forward to continuing to post at least 5 times each week.

School-My students and I are about ready to start out nonfiction writing unit. I want to polish it up and post it onto TPT after we have worked through it at school.

Fun-My "to-read" pile is getting dangerously high. I want to read at least three of the books in that pile!

Don't forget to enter my 100 follower giveaway. It ends on Friday!

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Must Read Mentor Text-Social Studies, freebie, and giveaway

Happy Sunday everyone! I hope you are having a fantastic weekend!  I'm linking up with Collaboration Cuties for their Must Read Mentor Text linky.

It is the fourth Sunday of the month, so that means we need to pick a social studies mentor text. In Pennsylvania, a major part of the fourth grade curriculum is studying the state. To make the study a little more meaningful I have my students create an ABC book about the state of Pennsylvania. In order to introduce the project to them, I read them the book, K is for Keystone by Kristen Kane.

This book is a wonderfully written ABC picture book that shares facts about the state of PA. It shares facts in an interesting way with wonderful illustrations. My students enjoy the book, and it really helps them understand what their own ABC book should look like when they are finished.

You can download the project plan sheet as well as my grading sheet here. It is a word document so you can edit it to fit your state. I take quarter one of my school year and teach them all about PA. The students then take what they have learned in class, as well as what they research on their own, to create their ABC books. Here are a few cover shots of the finished products:

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
What are your favorite mentor texts to use when you teach social studies? 

Don't forget to enter my 100 Follower Giveaway to have the chance to win some awesome prizes! The giveaway ends on Friday!

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spark Student Motivation-Clip Chart & Bubbles and Giveaways

I have been wanting to link up with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Spark Student Motivation Saturdays but I keep posting something else on Saturday before I remember about this linky. But not this week!

I am a big believer in positive reinforcement. I try, whenever possible, to praise my kiddos to success. One of the major ways I try to do this is to catch them being "good." To do this I use "The Clip Chart."
My clip chart at the end of a day
I have seen quite a few posts about the clip chart, some people love it, others aren't sure about it and a few don't seem to like it at all. I first saw it on Pinterest, and I liked the idea of it, but I was happy with the management system I was using...until this year. My class this year is a bit more trying than others. There are a lot of strong personalities, which makes for great class discussions-but can be a bit tricky to manage. I thankfully knew that before the year started, so I decided to add the clip chart to my management system from the beginning.

What I like about it:
Everyone starts on Ready to Learn (green) and depending on their behavior and choices they can move up or down. I can choose to move the students, or have them move themselves. I hang my chart on a back cabinet in my room. The kids can easily walk up to it, but everyone isn't staring at the chart all day.
I also like that students can "redeem" themselves-if they have a rough start or moment, they can still turn it around and end the day well.
I also love that I can praise the positive behavior. All I normally have to do to get kids on track is clip up those that are listening and the rest of them "shape-up" quickly.

What I do differently:
There are a few things I do a bit differently than others who use the clip chart. Most of my students come from a third grade teacher who uses the clip chart, so the initial excitement has worn off. I wanted to do something to make them excited to clip up each day. So I assigned points to each of the "positive areas" of the chart.
Ready to Learn-green-2 points
Good Day-yellow-4 points
Great Job-orange-6 points
Outstanding-red-8 points
Top of the chart-10 points
Off the chart-15 points (big jump in points because it is a big deal! They also get to decorate their clip-which is a recommendation by the creators of  the clip chart.)

At the end of every day the students fill in "bubbles" based on the number of points they earned for that day. Every student has their own bubble chart-which is one of the shapes pictured below that I have copied onto card-stock.

I use the honor system on the bubbles, I normally have a good idea if someone is filling in more bubbles than they should and will call them on it, but that rarely happens. When the students fill their chart they are able to trade it in for a prize in the prize basket.

What do you use to motivate your students? Be sure to link up with Joanne to share your ideas, and to pick up some new great ones!

Don't forget to enter in to my 100 follower giveaway!

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There's another giveaway going on at Where the Wild Things Learn. Be sure to head over there and enter to win some great prizes!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Five for Friday, Flashback Friday, and 100 Follower Giveaway

Happy Friday! I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday and with Teaching Maddeness for Friday Flashback to celebrate surviving our week!


1. My students finished their state testing on Monday. They took two science tests, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. They worked hard and I am so glad it is over! Now we can enjoy the rest of the school year without "the test" hanging over our heads!

2. On Tuesday, I attended a workshop on formative assessment. We spent a lot of time talking about the importance of planning well thought out questions that let us evaluate where our students are, and what they know. It was a really great workshop, and a really good reminder.

3. Tuesday night many of my fourth graders participated in the Reading Olympics. They worked so hard and read many books The original night of the event had been post poned for over a month because of weather. They earned a blue ribbon, I'm so proud of them, all their hard work paid off!

Photo: Our Lower School team competed in the Bucks County Reading Olympics on April 23rd, and brought home a Blue Ribbon! Great job to the kids for working hard to read so many books!
Picture from my our schools Facebook page

4. On Thursday I took my students on an overnight camping trip. It is the most stressful, but fun field trip. The kids and I learn about ecosystems, dissect owl pellets, and enjoy outdoor fun like canoeing, capture the flag, fishing, baseball/softball, and campfires to name a few. It is my favorite trip to take my kids on because they have no choice but to play outside! It is so great to watch students who only ever play video games rolling in the grass, and digging in the dirt! Here are a few pictures of our trip:

5. This week I also reached 100 followers! I'm so excited to have some wonderful prizes to offer a lucky winner thanks to my blogging buddies.

This giveaway is my thank you to you, my followers, for joining me on my blogging journey and listening to all of my "Tales from Teaching."
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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Peace, Hope, Love, and Kindness-linky

Every time we turn on the news, pick up a newspaper, or look on the internet there seems to be something awful going on. With all of the "Yuck" going on in the world some of our fellow bloggers decided that we needed a day to focus on peace, hope, love, and kindness that we see.

I'd like to share about something that happened to my husband and I a few weeks ago. Many of you know that my wonderful mother-in-law passed away on Easter Sunday. It was totally unexpected, so when we received the call on Saturday afternoon saying she wasn't expected to make the night we hopped on a plane and headed to Florida. We were there for a week paying for hotel, rental car, flights etc. It was a stretch for us financially, my husband is a full time student (graduates in June,) so we were a bit worried about where the money for everything was going to come from-but we were thankful that we were able to be there.

When I arrived back at school on Monday, I was called into office and was handed an envelope. In the envelope was a large amount of cash. The office staff collected money from those that wanted to donate to help offset the cost of our trip. It was such a surprise, and such a blessing. Their act of kindness really touched my heart during a very difficult time.

What are your stories of peace, hope, love and kindness? Have you ever received a surprise blessing? I'd love to hear your stories! Be sure to link up and read other encouraging stories, as well as share your own. Together we can make the world a better place!

I'm off to take my kiddos on our overnight camping trip. I'm thankful the weather is going to cooperate! Tomorrow night I'll share some pictures from our trip, and plan to start the 100 Follower Giveaway, so be sure to check in!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Workshop Wednesday-Math card games

It is Wednesday, so I am linking up with Ideas by Jivey for her weekly Workshop Wednesday.

This week's topic is our favorite math card games. One of the card games that is a favorite of my students is War. I've shared two posts about them with a freebie here and here. The other big card game that my kiddos love is Math 24.

For those of you that may not have played Math 24 before, the goal is to add, subtract, multiply, or divide all four numbers to make them equal 24. So the card above with the numbers 1, 3, 4, 2 can be solved by saying 3*2=6 6*4=24 24*1=24. The students can practice alone, play with a partner, or with a small group.

I would recommend grouping children by ability when it comes to this game. Students who struggle with math facts can get very frustrated if they play with someone who is a "math facts master." The one who struggles hardly ever has a chance to answer if you don't group them wisely. 

What are your students favorite math games to play? Head over to Ideas by Jivey to share your favorite math card games and learn some new ones for your kiddos!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tried it Tuesday-Motion and Design unit

This week is such a busy week. Yesterday my students took the state tests for science. Today I am attending an all day workshop on formative assessment, and on Thursday into Friday I am taking my kiddos on an overnight camping trip (I'll post more about that this weekend!) I'm in the middle of planning my giveaway for having 100 followers, if anyone else would like to help donate something towards the giveaway let me know and I will e-mail you. 

I'm excited that it is Tuesday...and that means it is time to link up with Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried it Tuesday.


Last week, my students and I began our Motion and Design unit in science. After a brief time completing the KW of a KWL chart in a small group we shared as a class. Then the unit starts with a bucket of K'Nex and a challenge. I ask the students to build a vehicle with their partner that can go 2 meters. They have twenty minutes to complete the challenge. I've learned from experience to partner a girl with a boy as much as possible. The students are able to get more work done when they aren't with their friends.

It is amazing to see what they try to build. It is really fun for me to watch their creativity come out. At this time of year I can easily forget that kids need time to explore and experiment because I am trying to "cram in" everything I still need to teach before the year is over. This unit gives me a chance to let the kids discover and explore on their own.

After the 20 minutes, the students need to draw the vehicle that they created. We talk about what they discovered in building their vehicles that allowed them to move the two meters. The kids loved "playing" with the connects, and I loved giving them a chance to discover things about motion and design in hands-on experiences.

What have you tried recently? What types of hands-on activities do you use with your kiddos at this time of the year? Be sure to link up with Holly and share what you have tried recently!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Manic Monday-Converting Customary Units Capacity Game freebie

It is Monday and that means it is time to link up with Classroom Freebies for Manic Monday! Be sure to head over there and check out other great freebies!

Today I am sharing a game I just created for my students to use this week. It is Customary Units of Capacity War. Just like the Units of Length War game I shared last week. This game is great to use as a center, or for your earlier finishers. My kiddos are on a "War" game kick, so I am happy to supply them with new cards to play with that match our units of study.

You can download your own copy here. If you use them, let me know! I'd love to hear what your kiddos think of it. What are your favorite ways to reinforce capacity?

  I'm so excited that I have 101 followers! I'll be working on a giveaway to thank you all for listening to my "tales," stay tuned for some great stuff, more information to come soon!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Science Mentor Text-Planet Earth/Inside Out

It is Sunday, and that means it is time to link up with Collaboration Cuties for their Mentor Text linky!

This week's topic is Science Mentor Texts. I have to admit that I had to stop and think for a minute. Most of my science curriculum is very hands-on, so when I think of teaching science, mentor texts aren't my first thought. Once I really thought about it, I realized I do use a lot of nonfiction mentor texts to help deepen my students understanding.

The book I've chosen to share with you today is Planet Earth/Inside Out. I use this book when I am teaching my students the layers of the Earth. It is a great read aloud that I use to introduce my students to the lesson.

Gail Gibbons is one of my favorite nonfiction children's authors. She does a wonderful job sharing facts in a fun and kid-friendly way. Her books have great text features that make them a great resource to use when teaching students the different types of text features.

What are your favorite science mentor texts? Be sure to link up with Collaboration Cuties to share your favorites and learn some new ones!
On a side note...I'm really close to having 100 followers, 2 more to go! I've never done a giveaway before but I think I'm going to have to figure out how to do one quickly! If any of you are willing to donate an item toward the giveaway let me know. If you have done a giveaway and have any "tips" for a first timer like me I'd love to hear them! Looking forward to celebrating with all of you!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The one with the raining ceiling fan...and Let's Get Acquainted-Skittles Game

So yesterday I got home from a long day at school, posted on here, and was just getting ready to head back to school to help with a musical that some of my students were in when I hear the sound of rain...on my ceiling. Now that may not sound like a big deal, but when you live on the second floor of a three floor apartment, it is a huge issue!

The apartment above mine had a pipe water began pouring between their floor and my ceiling. Which caused the water to "rain" from the ceiling fan in both my living room and office. Thankfully, I was home and able to put trash cans under the streams of water! I was also able to save our laptop and my husbands new docking station for his tablet that were on the table where the water started to flow. What a surreal experience!

Anyway, I'm linking up with Latoya at Flying into First Grade for her Let's Get Acquainted party (better late than never.)  This weeks topic is the Skittles game. Each color stands for something different to share.


TOPIC - Skittles Game
Here is the code:
Red- Favorite Ice Cream Flavor
Orange- Favorite Memory from College
Yellow- Favorite Sports Team
Green- Favorite Fast Food Place
Purple- Wild Card(Tell anything about yourself)

Red- Favorite Ice Cream Flavor
My favorite flavor is Coconut Almond Chip that is made fresh from my favorite ice cream place called OWOWCOW. It is a local creamery that makes ice cream with fresh local ingredients. So yummy!

Orange- Favorite Memory from College
My favorite college memory would probably be traveling with my roomie to the Army/Navy football game. My brother was a midshipman at the Naval Academy so we were able to watch football and visit with him.
Yellow- Favorite Sports Team
 I may live in Pennsylvania but I was born and raised in Rhode Island. So all the sports teams I support are New England teams. My all time favorite team would be the New England Patriots. I've been a fan since I was a kid (and they were awful back then.) It's nice to have a good team to cheer for!
Green- Favorite Fast Food Place
I don't eat a lot of fast food, but Chick-Fil-A would have to be my favorite.
Purple- Wild Card(Tell anything about yourself)
Random fact about me-my husband and I first met on the internet. He was in FL and I was in PA. We were long distance up until two weeks before our wedding. 
Be sure to link up at Flying into First Grade to share some new facts about yourself and get to know your fellow bloggers.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Fourth Grade Common Core Workbook

I know many of you are learning about and creating items that align with the Common Core. While looking around online for ideas I stumbled upon this resource. It is the Fourth Grade Common Core Workbook. 

 fourth grade common core standards workbook Free Giveaway   Fourth Grade Common Core Workbook Download

This workbook has 850 pages of worksheets, activity centers, and posters that teach the Common Core ELA and Mathematics Standards. What an easy and great way to add more resources to our "arsenal" as we all adjust to the Common Core Standards.

The workbook retails for $39, but they are currently running  a contest to earn a free one until April 21st. You can enter the contest here. I am looking forward to getting a free copy of my own and implementing some activities before the year is over!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Math Game-Customary Units of Measure War

I don't know about you, but my students love playing math games. I try to find or create a math game/activity as often as possible that reinforces what we are learning.

We are currently working through our measurement unit. My students really struggle with converting in customary units. Even though they know 3 feet equals 1 yard, when I ask them to tell me how many feet are in 12 yards they get stuck. It was out of this struggle that this game was born.

The game is a twist on the classic card game, War. I created cards that have customary units of measure on them. I kept the cards simple because I knew I wanted to copy them onto bright card-stock.

 The rules for this game are the same as a regular game of War. The students playing each flip over a card. Once the cards are flipped, they must both discover who has the longest length. The person with the longest length takes both cards. If the lengths are the same the students will have a "war." When/if that happens the students will need to put three cards face down, and then one card face up. Whoever has the card with the longest length wins all the cards. As with regular war, the goal is to win all of the cards.

The game is one of my anchor activities that my students can choose from when they have finished their assigned activities for the day. They really enjoy it. A few of them ask to play during inside recess, which lets me know this game is a keeper!

You can download the game here. If you download it please let me know what you and your students think!

Find more great math games or link up and share your own with Laura Candler at Corkboard Connections.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Workshop Wednesday-Noticings Mini-lesson

It's Wednesday, which means it is time to link up with Ideas by Jivey for Workshop Wednesday.

This week's topic is our favorite mini lesson that we teach during Writing Workshop. It is extremely difficult to pick just one mini-lesson, so I am going to cheat a little and talk about a resource that I use many times throughout the year in my mini-lessons. It is our "Noticing Chart."

I created this chart based off Katie Wood Ray's idea of having students "Read like a Writer." I use this to help teach my students how to notice what the writer is doing. When I first starting teaching writing, I did not give my students time to "notice." I would read them a mentor text, tell them what I wanted in their piece, and would have them start writing. Thankfully, I went to workshops and read books that helped me learn how important it is for students to notice author's craft.

Now, whenever, I introduce a new writing topic-personal narratives, persuasion, historical fiction, nonfiction, odes, etc. I always give the students time to notice. I start by reading one or two mentor texts and jot down as a class what we notice. I then give the students time to read other examples on their own or with a partner. They jot down what they notice on their own charts. We then come together and create a class noticing chart.

Group noticing chart from our Historical Fiction Unit

When I give the students time to notice they have a clearer picture of what they should be writing. Their pieces are better and stronger.

Do you give your students time to "notice" before they write? What's your favorite Writing Workshop mini-lesson?

Be sure to check out Ideas by Jivey and see other favorite mini-lessons. While you are there, check out her awesome 300 follower giveaway.