Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year Resolutions

How do you know that you have been on vacation for too long? Your bloglovin' list has 764 unread posts! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and I hope you have some fun plans for this evening. Hubby and I are having a quite night at home with some homemade seafood chowder. We are looking forward to the peace and quiet after having been with family for over a week. We had a fabulous time, but let's be honest, there's no place like home!

I'm excited to link up with A Peach for the Teach today to share my New Years Resolutions.
 What are your goals for next year? What are you looking forward to most this coming year?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tried it Tuesday-Math Workshop

Happy Tuesday everyone! I am home sitting in my yoga pants enjoying a snow day here in PA! This snow day has been such a blessing because I just finished my grad paper for the class I have been taking! This class has been my least favorite so far, so I am VERY thankful to have it behind me!
I'm excited to link up with Holly for Tried it Tuesday! It has been way too long since I have had the chance to link up and share what I have tried...just another bonus to an extra day off!

Those of you that have read my blog for a while know that I have started implementing a Math Workshop in my classroom this year. I have labored over the idea of a math workshop for years, but didn't know how I could fit all I needed to cover into our assigned 50 min schedule. This year I finally bit the bullet and went for it. Because of our tight schedule I am not able to do some of the activities other math workshops are able to do like Calendar math or a problem of the day, as much as I wanted to give those aspects a try I just couldn't make them instead I've come up with my own modified version of Math Workshop and I am extremely pleased with the results.
My students and I start each day with a mini-lesson. This is where I introduce the skill, we make our foldables for the unit/day, and we practice one or two problems together. This normally takes about 10-15 min. I have found when I am introducing a brand new topic (like geometry) this lesson is normally about 20 min long because of the time it takes to make the foldables...I just shorten my other times to adjust accordingly.

After our introduction my students rotate between teacher time, seat work, and hands on time. I always start with my low kids first. We continue to work on the lesson/skill for the day together. We work together on whiteboard on the floor in the front of the room. The other students know they can only bother me if they are dying or bleeding (this took a lot of training in the first few weeks of school, and a lot of reminding last week after having so many days off for Thanksgiving break.)

The students at the at your seat center will normally work on task cards at a side table. My favorite task cards to use have QR codes on them. This allows the students to check themselves. I still collect their work to check that it is complete, but it saves me a lot of time grading.

The hands on center can be anything! Sometimes I have the students create shapes, work on magic squares, Math Tic-Tac-Toe boards, or play math games that go with our skills.
I am so glad I tried a Math Workshop this year. My students are improving, and it is allowing me to support my low kids, while I stretch my high kiddos! It's a win-win for me and my students.

What have you tried recently?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Birthday Blessings and a Field Trip!

Happy Saturday everyone! I hope you have all had a lovely week! Thank you all for the birthday well-wishes. I had a great day. When I arrived at school on Monday morning I discovered this on my door.

My homeroom moms had come back after school the day of our Thanksgiving break to decorate the door for my birthday! How sweet is that? Each post-it was a note from a student or a parent telling me what they enjoy about school. It was such a blessing. One little boy wrote that "I hated to read, but now because of you I love reading." Talk about bringing tears to my eyes! I don't know about you, but some days I feel like I don't make a difference, so this was really a blessing. This motivated me this week!

My students and I also went on our first field trip on Wednesday. We took a two and a half hour bus ride out to our state capital, Harrisburg.

The students and I (along with 10 parents) went on a tour of the capitol building. We were able to go into the House, Senate, and Judicial rooms. Then, because our senator was there we were allowed a special trip onto the Senate Floor to meet with him. The kiddos had a blast!

After our tour, we spent the afternoon at the Pennsylvania State Museum. The museum had a great scavenger hunt for the kids to complete. They were able to fill in some facts they already knew, but also learned some new things along the way. It was a great trip that really made history come to life!

What field trips do you take your kids on? How do you spark student motivation? Be sure to check out Joanne's blog for more motivating ideas!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Currently, One Candle-Hanukkah/World War II Mentor Text, and a Sale!

Happy December 1st! I can't believe how fast the year is going! I hope those of you that had a few days off for Thanksgiving enjoyed it as much as I did. Since it is December 1st, I am linking up with Oh' Boy 4th Grade for Currently.
Most of my Currently is self-explanatory but a few things  could use a little explanation.
Thinking: My birthday is tomorrow...hard to believe another year has passed. I can't help myself but my birthday tends to be the time of year that I evaluate myself...I find it is a good time of year to make new goals for myself.

My favorite tradition is something my husband introduced me to during our first Christmas together. His family makes giant homemade cinnamon buns on Christmas Eve to be enjoyed for breakfast on Christmas morning. Before we eat we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and pray for our upcoming year. It's a nice tradition that I am looking forward to passing on. This year will be the first year that Glen's mom won't be making the Cinnamon buns...Glen and I will be taking over the tradition, it is sure to be a bittersweet time for us.

I also want to link up with Collaboration Cuties for their Mentor Text linky.
A book I like to use this time of year is One Candle. This book focuses on a family celebrating Hanukkah together.
One Candle
Even though I teach at a Christian school, with 0 Jewish children I still like to read this book. My students and I read Number the Stars together so this is a great book to have them make text-to-text connections. I also like to use this book to teach questioning. Because there are some heavy topics this book helps us generate a lot of great questions.
I also love this book because it helps my students learn about the awful parts of World War II in a kid appropriate way. I think it is so important to slowly introduce our students to some of the events of WWII and this book is a great way to do that. I also like that it teaches my students about another holiday that others celebrate.

What are your favorite mentor text to use to teach WWII? What books do you use to teach Text-to-Text Connections?

I also wanted to share the TPT sale starting tomorrow! (Banner from Krista Wallden)
I don't know about you, but I have a bunch of items in my wishlist. My entire store will be 20% off so when you enter the Promo code from TPT you will receive 28% off. Happy Shopping!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How Many Days to America-Mentor Text

Happy Sunday before Thanksgiving! As busy as this time of year is, I really do love it. I love the extra time we have to celebrate with friends and family. I love that we have a day that reminds us to be thankful for the little things.

Because I teach in a very "middle class" area. I like to remind my students to be thankful for all the little things as well. To help them with this I like to share a book with them this time of year by Eve Bunting. How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story is a wonderful book to use during Reading Workshop.
 How Many Days to America?: A Thanksgiving Story

This book tells the story of a family leaving their country and heading to America by boat. They are trying to escape their home country because "they don't think the same way." The book ends with the family making it to America on Thanksgiving Day.


It lends itself to all types of reading skills, inferring, questioning, connections, etc. I like to use this book with my students in a lesson called "Reading is Thinking." This is where my students are encouraged to think using all the skills we have taught them, not just the skill we are focused on for the week.
 What are your favorite social studies mentor text to share this time of year? Do you have a favorite informational Thanksgiving book you share with your class? Be sure to head over to Collaboration Cuties to grab some new mentor text suggestions! (Just think, with Amazon's cyber Monday sale you can pick up some new books for a great price! Anyone else have a cart waiting for the sale?)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Spark Student Motivation-Publishing a Class Book

Happy Saturday! I can't believe it has been almost a week since I last posted. We had our first round of parent/teacher conferences this week. Putting in a 14 hour day just about kills me every year. I always feel bad for my last conference, I don't think I always speak in complete sentences. Monday we finish up our conferences (Thankfully this should only be a 13 hour day!)
Today I'm excited to link up with the fabulous Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching. I apologize now for the lack of pictures...but I forgot my camera at school.

My students and I are currently working on a class book. "A Day in the Life of Bubble Gum." On Monday, we worked together to brainstorm things that could happen to a piece of gum.We then created an outline for our book, each student choosing one page of the book to write.
On Tuesday the students wrote their first draft of their page and then worked with the people the page before and after them to make sure their page flowed.

On Wednesday, I read the story to the class page by page, we "tweaked" the story as needed to have it all make sense. For the rest of the week the students and I worked to have them write their final copy.

This week I will send our final copy to Student Treasures. This company will publish one class book for free. Parents can order a copy of the book for themselves and if every parent signs a paper the company will send you a free copy of the book.

Interested in publishing a class book? Check out the company, and order your free kit. (Please note that I am not getting anything for telling you about this company, I just know how much my students are loving this project.)
Studentreasures Book Publishing

Working on a class book has really helped my students stay motivated during writing time this week...and considering how hard it is to concentrate before a break, I'd count it as a huge success.

What do you do to motivate your students to write? How do you help keep your students on task when vacation is on the horizon?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip Mentor Text

Those of you that read my blog regularly, know that we are in the middle of our electricity unit in science. The mentor text I want to share with you today is one that I will be reading to my kiddos later this week.
The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip (Magic School Bus Series)

The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip by Joanna Cole is a perfect book to share with my kiddos during our unit. My students are very familiar with Magic School Bus books and videos. As fourth graders they have watched/read a lot of them over the years, but this one tends to be new for most of them. This books teaches how electricity travels through towns to light up our homes and the items in our homes.
The Magic School Bus Series 4 Gets Charged - Electricity
After we read this story we will watch The Magic School Bus Gets Charged. It's a great way to review the parts of a circuit (and is perfect for my science class on Friday afternoon since I have conferences until 9pm on Thursday night! Anyone else have a ridiculous parent/teach conference schedule this year?) This video is on Youtube here. I actually bought the entire series of Magic School Bus videos for $39 this summer on Amazon.
What are your favorite science mentor texts? Be sure to check out the lovey ladies at Collaboration Cuties to find more mentor text suggestions.
That's a little Peek at My Week, head over to Jennifer's blog to see what some other bloggers are up to.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Student Discovery in Science-Spark Student Motivation

It's Saturday, and I'm linking up with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching to share one thing we did this week that really motivated my students.
As I have shared before, we are in the middle of our electricity unit in science. Each year my students always love this unit more than any others that I teach in fourth grade. This week as I was watching my students in class perform our experiments I had an epiphany...I give my students time to discover. I don't give them all the step-by-step directions that come with each experiment. Instead I give them the bare basics and ask them to figure it out, and they love the challenge.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. To introduce my kiddos to circuits they each receive a small wire, a battery, and a light bulb. I ask them to make it light. I tell them there are four ways you can hold it to make it light so when they find one way, try to find the other way. Here are a few pictures of them experimenting (sorry they are so dark, we had all the lights off so we could really "tell" if we made our light bulb light.)

After about 5 min. I gave them a hint and let them get back to figuring it out. Normally one or two are able to make it light after one hint and that spurs the others on. After 5 more min. I make one light and quietly walking around the classroom. The students who want more help will get up and look at how I am holding it, those that really want to figure it out themselves will ignore me. (This is the one time I tell them they can ignore me.) Once we all get it we discuss what we have discovered. It is a favorite of all my students.

With all of the "things" we need to cover I know it is hard to give students that time to figure things like this out on their own, but they are so motivated by it.

When and how do you give your students time to discover? How do you motivated your students?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five for Friday-What a busy week!

It's Friday! I'm excited to link up with Doddle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday this week.

It's been a busy week. What is it about this time of year that makes life crazy?
On Monday we celebrated the 50th Day of School.

We also started building our electric circuits. I'll blog more about this tomorrow.

We made some fun new foldables to help us practice contractions.

The SLANT Box Exchange
I also received my Slant Box yesterday!
Marcy from Searching for Teacher Balance gave me the sweetest box. I am so excited to read Thanksgiving is... to my kids next week!

She has a wonderful 1st grade blog. Be sure to check it out!

Finally, I signed up for a post card exchange a few months ago. We received our first post card this week, (thank you Washington!) It's up on our United States bulletin board. My kiddos are so excited to receive the others!

What have you been up to this week?