Friday, May 31, 2013

Five for Friday, Friday Flashback-International Day Edition

Happy Friday! This time next week I will be on summer vacation! I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching and Teaching Maddeness for their Friday linky parties.


This week was a busy week at school, even though it was only a four day week. On Wednesday, my school had an international day. Each class had studied a different country and had created different way to share their country with the other grades. My students researched the Philippines. Wednesday was the big day. The kids did such a great job learning, creating, and teaching. We decorated and turned our classroom "into" the Philippines. I was so proud of them.

Later that night we had our portfolio parties with the parents to celebrate the end of the year. I love portfolio parties because it gives the kids and parents a chance to sit down and see how much they have grown. Sometimes the change is so gradual it is easy to miss, but portfolios really show the growth over time.

In science we have been working on our Earth Movements unit. The students created their volcanoes on Thursday. We use model magic to create them. On Tuesday next week we will make them erupt!

We also did a fun activity with mini microscopes. The students looked at comics, sugar, salt, cloth leaves, and anything else we could get our hands on under the microscopes. They loved it.

What did you do this week?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tricks of the Trade-Poster Storage

It is Thursday, only 6 1/2 days of school (counting today.) I cannot wait! This has been a busy week, but such a good one. I'm trying to enjoy all the time I have left with these kiddos!

I'm linking up with Becky at Compassionate Teacher and Jessica at Joy in the Journey for Tricks of the Trade Thursday.

This weeks topic is Poster Storage and Organization. I'd love to say that my posters are organized...but that would be a lie. I'm a very organized person as a general rule-but my posters are another story. I am looking forward to seeing how others organize their posters. As for storage, I do have a trick for you!

When I first started teaching I was given one of these boxes to store posters in:
Chart Storage Box File and Save System®
The only problem was the box didn't fit anywhere, so it was an eyesore in my classroom. I used it for a few years, but the box really started to look gross. Then I discovered these:

I am able to put my posters in these and hang them in my closet. My posers don't bend or wrinkle and I don't have an eyesore anymore!

What do you do to organize and store your posters? Any organizational tips for me?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Workshop Wednesday-Persuasive Writing Mentor Text

Happy Wednesday everyone!Since it is Wednesday, it is time to link up with Ideas by Jivey for Workshop Wednesday. This is the last one for the summer, so be sure to head over there and check it out!

  This week's topic is Persuasive Writing. How do you teach persuasive writing? What are your favorite mentor texts to share when teaching persuasive writing?

When I first introduce persuasive writing I read my students the book Hey Little Ant. I love this book because it ends having the kid make a choice, should the boy save, or step on the ant. Once I have read the story to the class, we read some "ant facts" together. They then pick a side and write a letter to the kid sharing what they think he should do.

Once they have done that first piece, I like to share some other pesuasive books with them. Some of my favorites are:
A little boy thinks there is a monster in his home, he tries to persuade the monster to eat her brother, not him.
Little boy Alex, writes letters back and forth to his parents about why he needs a new room.

Alex writes letters to his parents about why he should be able to have a pet iguana.
Next, I like to give the kids a chance to write a persuasive letter to a real person. They need to pick a topic they care about; getting a cell phone, extending recess time, sitting by a friend, getting a pet etc. Then students can choose to write letters to me, the principal, their parents etc. (We talk about the importance of audience in persuasive writing.) I find they write a much better letter when they have a true audience.

When students write letters to me, if it is at all possible, I try to "grant" them what they are asking for (even if it is only a day.) If I am unable to do it, I do talk to them and explain why. I want them to feel that they were heard, since they took the time to write a letter to me.

How do you teach persuasive writing to your students? What are your favorite mentor texts to use for your persuasive unit?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tried it Tuesday-Differentiated Instruction-TAPS and Next School Year Linky

Happy Tuesday everyone. I hope you all enjoyed your long weekend as much as I did. Only 8 1/2 more days of school for me (that is counting today!) I'm "double-dipping today" and joining two linky parties.

First, I'm linking up with Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried it Tuesday.
If you read yesterday's long post, you know I plan to share many of the ways I have started to differentiate in my classroom. Today I want to share a quick and easy way that you can differentiate your instruction. That is by using TAPS. As a self contained classroom, I try to use TAPS each day. The acronym TAPS represents the ways we should be instructing our students and the ways they should be working on assignments or activities.

T-Total-this is whole group instruction
A-Alone-students working alone, or meeting with you one-on-one
P-Partner-students working with a partner or meeting with a partner
S-Small Group-students meeting and working in groups of 3-4 (I find groups of 5 get a bit crazy)

When I first learned about TAPS I was excited to see that there is a place for whole group instruction in a DI classroom. I was also excited to see that I use TAPS all the time in my classroom. I think most of us who teach elementary students naturally do this. Since learning about it though, I have tried to be more on-purpose with doing TAPS each day. I naturally use TAS (because my students sit at tables groups are easier than partners) so I have had to be a little more creative to add the partner activities. One of the best ways I have found to quickly partner kids up is using "Clock Partners."

It takes about an hour to set up the clocks with the kids during the first few weeks of school, but once you have them set-it is done for the year. I have my students store them in a sheet protector in their binder. You can download a copy of my clock partners chart here.

Do you use TAPS in your room? Which part of TAPS do you have to be more "on-purpose" to use in your classroom?

Even though my year isn't over yet, I'm also linking up with  Finding Joy in 6th Grade for her first linky party.


Here are a few of my plans for next year!

I am super excited about implementing this next year!

I love to read, but during the year I tend to struggle with finding time to read for myself.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who struggles with this!
What do you plan to do next year? Link up with Kim to share your plans for next year.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Differentiated Instruction 101

Happy Memorial Day everyone! I hope you are enjoying your day off and are able to spend time with family and friends. Thank you to those of you that serve or have served in the military. My younger brother is in the Navy, and this day reminds me how thankful I am that he has always made it home safely...but I do know that not everyone has that story. I saw this on Facebook and thought it was fitting for today.

As many of you know, my school is working through a three year strategic plan to have our classrooms and our instruction become fully differentiated. This is an exciting goal, but it is a huge undertaking. When I first heard that this was our goal I panicked...I began to wonder if this meant I would ever really teach again, of I would only be tracking kids as they worked through the curriculum. Thankfully, as I began to learn about what DI really is I discovered that I already was doing a lot of differentiation, and that while I had a lot to learn, I was already well on my way to having a DI classroom.

I am thankful to have a wonderful principal. She purchased a few books for us to help us on our journey. Then she ran a book club based on the books throughout the school year to give us a chance to share our successes and failures. The two books we looked at as a faculty were both by Carol Ann Tomlinson. They were Leading and Managing A Differentiated Classroom and How to Differentiate in a Mixed-Ability Classroom

 Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom  How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms

Both of these books share some great facts and basic ideas on how to start differentiating.

The first thing I learned was that you can differentiate in three key areas; content, process, and product.

Content-This is exactly what you think it is, changing the content for those kids that need it. That means giving extra support, or even starting at a different place for those kids who really struggle and are not ready for the content. As well as giving students who are ready for a challenge that push that they need. If I am being honest, this is the one that I do not do naturally, so this is one area I am continuing to work.

I'll give you an example of how I did do this in math recently. We were working on long division. I spent a day reviewing long division with one digit divisors (something I had taught earlier in the year,) but then jumped into two digit divisors for those kids that needed a challenge. By the end of the week I had all but two of my students working on division problems with two digit divisors. The two students that weren't ready for two digit divisors worked on one digit divisors with me. Did they feel bad about it? No, building a solid classroom community is super important in a DI classroom (but that is for another post.)

Process-is another way that we can differentiate. This is what we (as teachers) do all the time, presenting the knowledge and skills in many different ways so that we can reach all of our students as learners. Take learning the states and capitals, you can do a variety of things to help your kiddos learn them; give them a facts sheet, make foldables or flashcards, play a game, learn a song, etc.

Product-Product is the final way to have your students differentiate. This is giving students the opportunity to show what they have learned in a variety of ways. I've always believed students should be able to do more than just take a test to show me what they have learned, but with the exception of reading and writing, I had most students completing the same project. This year I introduced a Tic-Tac-Toe board and Menu board to my students. They loved the personal choice and I loved watching them work! They were on-task and engaged the entire time, talk about a teacher's dream!

I know many of you are working on implementing DI into your classrooms so I will be sharing more about what I have learned, please know I do not claim to know it all, I'm just sharing what I have learned, in hopes that it will help some of you! As a thank you for reading this giant post I would like to give you my South Menu board for free in my TPT store. It will be free until Tuesday afternoon, so grab it while you can. If you download it please leave some feedback and let me know what you think.

What do you do to differentiated in your classroom? Do you tend to differentiate content, process, or product?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

You Wouldn't Want to Be-Must Read Mentor Text

I hope you all enjoyed your Saturday as much as I did! It was so nice to relax, and it is even better knowing I have today and tomorrow off!

It is Sunday, and that means it is time to link up with Collaboration Cuties for their Must Read Mentor Text linky. This week's topic is social studies.


The book I want to share with you is a favorite of my students and I. You Wouldn't Want to Be an American Colonist! This book is one book in a larger series called, "You Wouldn't Want to Be.."

I love these books because they present information in a fun and exciting way.  This book specifically looks at the Jamestown Colony. It shares what it would be like if you were a settler in Jamestown, what the battles were like against Native Americans, and also talks about Capt. John Smith. The students love the "weird-random facts" that the book shares. Students who enjoy social studies love this book, but more importantly students that generally don't enjoy social studies love the book. I like to share it as a read aloud with my class when I introduce Jamestown.

After I have shared the book with the students, I have them play this game on the computers. The Jamestown game allows students to be the leader of Jamestown. They get to pick how to treat the Native Americans, where to settle, what to plant etc. They are then graded on how their settlement would have survived. My students will play this game over and over to try to get different scores. It is another fun way for the students to learn about the Jamestown colony.

What are your favorite social studies mentor texts? Be sure to head over to Collaboration Cuties to check out other fantastic mentor texts!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Spark Student Motivation-Informational Piece with Personal Choice

I'm so sad I have missed posting for the last three days. I had lots of great ideas when I was planning my week, but my body had other plans. I ended up feeling awful on Wednesday afternoon, so awful that I called the doctor only to find out that I had strep. Needless to say I was dead to the world Wednesday night and all day Thursday. I went to work yesterday (because lets be honest it is more of a pain to leave sub plans at this time of year than to work when you still feel crummy.) Thankfully I was able to sleep in today and I feel so much better. On to my real post...

I'm excited to be able to link up with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching. This week I want to share what I do with my students for our last major writing piece of the year. My students and I spend the last few months of school really diving into nonfiction writing. We start off "easy" with our biome posters that I blogged about here. The students love the posters and it is a fun way for them to learn the how-to of proper research and how to write solid topic and concluding sentences for informational paragraphs.

Once that project is finished, I introduce the students to writing a true research paper. This paper does fit into the "five paragraph essay" but I've learned over time to not "bind" my students to that mold. Many of my students end up writing much more than five paragraphs (and having a much better voice than the traditional five paragraph essay allows.) The reason why is because I give them personal choice in their topic. The students and I work together to pick a topic that interests them. I have them jot down three topics they would want to learn more about (I tell them it must be a person, place, or thing.)

I then look over the list and meet with them one-on-one for a few min. to decide what topic they are most interested in, and what topic I can actually find good books and websites for them to use as references. Every year I've been able to give my students one of their top three choices. This year a few of the topics being researched are: soccer, history of weapons, dolphins, pandas, Japan, Hawaii, Nez-Prez Native Americans, etc.

Once their topic is chosen we work as a class to create questions that we want to research (that way their paper is focused!) It is amazing how well they work. They don't mind writing and researching because it is a topic they really care about.

I'm working on the finishing touches of my nonfiction unit for TPT, but here is a freebie for you. It is the plan sheet I give to my students to help keep them on track. You can download it here. It is a word document so you can edit it to fit your students needs.

What do you do to motivate your students to write this time of year?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tried it Tuesday-Behavior Checklists

What a year, so many sad events. My heart goes out to those affected by the storms and tornadoes in Oklahoma.
It has been a long day, but I am linking up with Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper for her Tried it Tuesday linky.

I have to admit, with the end of the school year only a few short weeks away I'm just trying to "push" my kiddos along as we try to wrap up our last few major projects. We are working on a lot of group projects right now and one of my boys has struggled this year with getting along with his classmates and other adults. He is a good kid, but he is very stubborn and argumentative. I honestly don't think he means to be disrespectful to others but he just can't help himself.

To try to help him with this his parents and I have started using a behavior checklist that I created. I fill it out each day, and then put it in his assignment book. He and I talk as situations come up during the day. So he has a pretty good idea about how he scored for the day before he even gets his report. His parents have consequences at home based on the report-while I have my consequences at school. It took him a little while, but I really think he is starting to improve. He is learning when it is time to stop and listen and when he should stand his ground.

If you would like a copy of it that you can edit to fit your kiddos needs you can download it here. What do you use to help your kiddos that need a little more monitoring than others?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Must Have Mondays-New Year New Gear

I'm linking up with Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang for a new linky; Must have Mondays.

She is having us share our must haves for our classrooms or our everyday life.
I'm also linking up with Pinkadots Elementary for the New Year, New Gear linky.

My first must have for my classroom are composition notebooks.

I use these notebooks with my kiddos for our Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop, and Math Journals. I love them because the pages don't fall out, and it is very difficult for them to rip pages out (I like them to keep everything-even their "mistakes."

 Worlds best pen
My second must have for my classroom is a good set of multicolored pens. I do not like to grade papers in red-I blame it on having teachers who always wrote in red on my papers. I try to use different colors-so the kids don't feel traumatized by one color!

Staples® Manila File Folders, Letter, 3 Tab, Assorted Position, 100/Box

File folders are my third must have. I use these for so many organizational things. I would be lost without them!

What are your must haves?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Volcanoes-Mentor Text

I'm linking up with Collaboration Cuties today for their Must Read Mentor Text linky. I love this linky, but my wallet does not! I have a huge wishlist on Amazon and Barnes and Noble right now, and I seem to keep adding to it each week after the linky party!

This week's topic is science. As I have shared before, most of my science consists of hands-on activities, but I do use mentor texts to help us learn facts in a fun way. The book I want to share with you today is one that my kiddos and I will be reading next week.

Seymour Simon Volcanoes Book
Seymour Simon is one of my favorite nonfiction authors. I share many of his books with my kiddos, so they hear about him a lot. I love the way he shares facts in a fun and interesting way. His books are very engaging-which is what we need especially this time of year!

He has a great website here that I was just introduced to. I shared with my students many of the question/answers that people have asked him about how he first started to write and why he writes nonfiction books when we started planning our own informational pieces. Many of my students were surprised that he chose to research and write about things that he had questions about. It was funny to watch them realize that he is a person who learns too!

What are your favorite science mentor text?