Monday, July 23, 2012

Workin' It Out

One of my favorite all time things is Harry Potter!  What better way to get in wedding shape (when I all I want to do is veg and read on the couch eating Doritos) than working out with some of my favorite characters?  Thus we have the Harry Potter Workout:

Saw this on Pinterest (of course) but it didn't lead back to anybody's website, so if you know who originated it please let me know so I can give them credit and thank them!  I was nervous because I thought this would ruin the movie for me but it didn't, it was a lot of fun actually!  Hysterical and sad when they said Voldemort three times in under three minutes and I had to do 30 push ups... lol.  I did change this a little from the original to meet my needs and I also added in 10 calf raises every time someone said "Harry Potter."  You can also change it up or move around the exercises to the phrases that occur more often to benefit your wants.  Your call!

To give you a little fitness for your classroom, since you probably won't be able to get away with the HP Workout plan on rainy days, here is a website that I use with my kids when we can't go outside for recess: Adventure to Fitness.  I really love it and the kids are too funny when following along with the guide Mr. Marc.  He takes you on an interactive/physical mission to capture an evil mastermind, all the while your kids are working out and learning about new civilizations, events in history, etc.  I really like it for multiple reasons but it gets the kids (and me) up and moving and learning and it's free!  Just sign up using your email account and viola!

I promise you won't be sorry for doing either of these fun fitness activities.  Let's call it what it is, if it's not fun, I'm probably not going to do it... especially when it comes to working out ;o)


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Travel Buddy Project

In third grade, my class had a class mascot (a stuffed mouse) and every weekend someone got to take him home along with his journal and we wrote about our adventures with them, drew pictures of what we did, etc.  I thought it was the coolest thing and was SO excited when it was my turn to take him home.

Well I wanted my students to feel that same feeling but since they are in fifth grade I wanted to switch it up a little, so we are doing a travel buddy instead of a class mascot.  Some of you might already know what a travel buddy is but for those of you who do not here is a break down:
  • Get a class buddy (stuffed animal) that represents your state, town, or school
  • Place your buddy, a picture book that goes along with your buddy, a journal for writing their adventures, and a souvenir for the other class in some sort of bag
  • Send all that goodness to a teacher in another state and they will send their buddy and goodies to you
  • Your students will learn all about another state and writing through this project
You can of course tweak this anyway you would like.  I am SUPER excited to say that our buddy is not in another state but in another country... Poland!!!  My students range from all different cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses but still have little experience outside of their own town let alone state or country.  I think they will love this!  We will be sending everything as stated above and possibly be sending postcards throughout the year also (sort of pen pal like).

Our class buddy is Topher the Turtle and we got him at SeaWorld along with Sea Turtles A-Z: Loggy, Greeny & Leather by Mara Uman Hixon.  I really liked the book since it taught about the different sea turtles and how we can help save them and other sea creatures.  Look how  cute his little face is!

I will also include S is for Sunshine: A Florida Alphabet by Carol Crane.  Even though I already included Topher's book about him, the whole point of a Travel Buddy is to learn more about where they came from so I'm throwing this in there as well.  These books are great and they have one for each state!

I will probably just use a green or yellow composition notebook for the journal.  The first page will be a letter from Topher that explains to the students what they are supposed to do and how Topher likes to have his two favorite books read to him.
The bag I will be using is the large blue backpack from Lakeshore.

Now for the souvenir...  I haven't decided what I want to add in.  I was thinking some pencils or bookmarks from SeaWorld or Disney but I'm not totally in love with that idea.  I want something really unique for them!  I haven't decided if I want to give them something from Central Florida/Orlando specifically or just Florida in general and go the beach route.  I'm going to have my class vote on which one but if you have any specific ideas for either I would love to hear them!

As you can tell I am ridiculously excited about this project and can't wait to get started!  Has anyone else ever done a Travel Buddy or something similar?  If you have any advice, please share!  Any advice would be greatly appreciated :o)


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Monday Made It #6: Vista Print Creations

This past week has been crazy!  My family came into town and we did the whole tourist thing: Disney, Sea World, the works!  It was so much fun to see them again but I definitely did not get a classroom "craft" done per se.  I did however get some Vistaprint creations done and in the mail today and I am very excited.  So this week's Monday Made It with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics is a digital classroom craft.

I created three new Vistaprint creations: 2012-2013 Sunshine State Feast Invitation (50 rack cards), Math Reference card (100 regular size postcard), and Classroom Rules banner (small vinyl banner).

Sunshine State Feast Invitation 2012-2013
Every student who reads all 15 Sunshine State Books will receive this special invitation to our Sunshine State Feast.  I plan on writing their name on the blank space under "That's a Wrap" in silver permanent marker.

Math Reference Sheet
I will be putting these in my math area by the TIMER Tubs so the students can always grab one to refer to when they are stuck.  I was nervous that the font would be too small and unreadable but it turned out perfect!  I snagged the front side from Ms. Sanchez's website (she's got great downloads!) and the back from the Utah Government website.

Classroom Rules
I've been seeing these types of subway signs all over the place, including my home for house rules, and I wanted to create one for our class.  I used Print Shop to create the sign and saved it as a PDF, then uploaded it onto Vistaprint and made a vinyl banner.  As you can tell there is some extra space on the actual banner but it is still larger than I imagined (it took up about half of my coffee table).  I'm going to frame it using yard sticks tomorrow.  I'm already thrilled with how it will look and it's not even done yet!  If you want a copy, head on over to my TPT store!

Do you want to know the best part of this DIY?  It was free!!!!!  That's right, Vistaprint was having this amazing sale and I only had to pay for shipping :o)  Can't beat that!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Made It #5 - Pot of Gold

Here it is, Monday again!  Which means I'm linking up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics and showing off my newest creation.  I actually made quite a few things this past week but my upcoming schedule is pretty full so I'm going to save them for the weeks to come (just in case I can't make anything).

My Monday Made It this week is inspired by a lot of things actually.  First was the cute lollipop tree that I've seen on Pinterest.  When kids do a great job they get to pick one from the tree and some special lollipops have the bottom of their stick colored which gets them an extra special treat.  I know a lot of primary grades do this and I wasn't sure how my bigger kids would go for the lollipop and what my extra treat would be, but I loved the concept!  Okay, that was number one.  Second inspiration: My kids last year got so excited whenever we pulled out my phone to use an app, time each other, etc. (I so wish I could get an IPAD!) that I wanted to incorporate a little more technology into our classroom.  And the final inspiration for this week's project is my heritage and how the kids responded to it last year.  I'm part Irish (in case that glaring bright white skin didn't give it away) and for some reason the kids were all over that last year.  They loved it!  I think they really just all loved finding out each other's cultures but one student in my class dubbed me "Tirishcan" = Texan Irish American.  I can't even make that up if I tried, lol.  So thus, you add those three inspirations together and you get "Pot of Gold," my motivational incentive!

I snagged my witch's pot from Halloween, made a cute little tag and tied it off with raffia around the brim and I've got myself a pot.  Now for the gold part.  I had about 40 bottle caps and spray painted them gold.  I recommend spraying close and only one coat or the color tends to dull, although that could have just been my paint.  Then you figure out your rewards.  Here are some that I did:

$5, $10, $25, $50 Classroom Cash
No homework pass
Free pencil
Free candy
Free snack
5 extra credit points
Pick your chair for next class
Lunch with a friend
Pick a book for our next literature circle
Computer Time
Add 50 class points
Pick an item from the treasure chest

I turned those rewards into QR Codes by going to the website Qurify and typing them into it's QR Code generator.  You can save the code as a picture, print it off, or just copy!  For those of you who don't know what a QR Code is, it's that box that looks like a messed up bar code and you can scan them with your phone and it takes you to a site, or in our case pulls up a reward message.  I printed them off on Avery's 3/4" Circle Stickers and used their template off line.

When my kids are going above and beyond they can pick a piece of gold from the pot and at the end of class we will scan it and let them get their reward.  You can put the gold back for another "lucky" student when finished!  Some of the easier ones, like pencil or candy, have about 5-6 bottle caps, whereas $50 Classroom Cash has only one bottle cap.

I have a lot more bottle caps and plan to make some math stations with them.  Maybe multiplication or division with the problem on the top of the cap and you'll have to scan underneath to get the answer.  Or possibly putting fractions in order from least to greatest and you have to scan to see if it is correct.  Who knows?!  The possibilities are endless...  What would you do with them?


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Guiding Readers Ch. 6 - Guiding Fluent Readers

This is it!  It's officially my turn to host a chapter for our book study with Beth from Thinking of Teaching!  This is my first time hosting and I'm so excited I get to talk to you about this chapter because this is what goes on in my classroom.  All the other chapters were enlightening (this one was too) but this is what I can really take back to my classroom next year and use with the majority of my kiddos.  Fair warning, this is a crazy long post so make sure you've got yourself a snack.

Lori Rog describes fluent readers as "being in a stage that will last for the rest of their lives."  I had never thought about it that way but it's true!  Now you are just guiding them through and not helping them get to another stage of reading but just a more sophisticated text.  One of the main challenges for the readers and teachers at this level is the "fourth-grade reading slump."  For some reason, after third grade many students lose interest in reading.  I thought it was because they had to focus so much on writing (at least in Florida) since they get tested earlier on in the year for writing, that they lose that wave they've been riding.  I didn't realize it was an actual thing though but apparently this phenomenon does exists and no one know why it happens!  Add on to that that boys score lower than girls in literacy assessments and are less likely to read by choice and you've got yourself a challenge my friend.

I always did like a challenge!  I am very lucky in that my interning teacher my senior year taught me to always start the year off with a read aloud that is a series, that way when you snag the kids that are less enthused about reading and they want to continue the story, they can!  There is nothing worse than when a kid gets excited about reading and can't find another book they like as well.  I have had a much success with this, especially with the boys.  The two books I have found they most enjoy are: The 39 Clues: Maze of Bones and The Lightning Thief (try them, you won't be sorry).  I also do the 40 Book Challenge with my kids (from the Book Whisperer) and they really enjoy being able to pick their own book choices and learning about the different genres.  Okay, I'm getting off topic but I had so many text-to-self connections in this chapter and I want to share them all!

You definitely still want to conduct small-group instruction for readers at or beyond grade level for multiple reasons.  You can help them grow in their developmental stage and grow into more sophisticated text and metacognative thinking.  At this stage though, the guided reading groups can be larger (8-10 students), can meet less frequently, and can blend with literature circles or reader's workshop (that's what I planned to do, so glad she confirmed it!). 

When you are matching the reader to a text, it is more difficult now because it depends on the student's background knowledge, vocabulary, interest, and independence.  You'll also find figurative language and descriptive prose that students will take literally when they shouldn't.  The concepts are more abstract and require the reader to read between the lines to interpret them.

Features of the Guided Reading Lesson for Fluent Readers
Before Reading (every student will need a Reader's Toolkit and clipboard for writing)
  • Book introduction
  • Focus on background knowledge
During Reading (make them aware of how their thinking evolves & changes as they read)
  • Silent reading of short sections of text
  • Sticky notes to track thinking and record strategies
After Reading
  • Plenty of discussion of the text & the reading process
  • Oral-reading fluency practice built purposefully into the lesson
  • Revisiting text for critical reading, higher-level thinking
  • Examining writer's craft and literary elements
  • Writing in response to reading
As you can tell, the students at this point are getting the reading process, it's the thinking about what they read that is the main focus here.  The first reading, as before, is meant to get the gist of the passage.  The subsequent readings are for greater fluency, deeper thinking, and more-sophisticated responses.  They begin focusing on critical reading, analyzing author's purpose, bias, point of view, and the writer's craft.  Make sure you have some guiding questions or prompts but in general the students should be generating natural and authentic conversation about the text.

Okay, on to some Lesson Routines! 
  • Coding Connections - Text to Self (T-S), Text to Text (T-T), and Text to World (T-W)
  • 3-H Questions - Types of Questions = Hand, Head, and Heart

This reminded me a lot of what I use in my classroom!  Except we say:

Green Light ? = GO back and find the answer in the text
Yellow Light ? = SLOW DOWN and search!  You need to look in more than one place to get your answer.
Red Light ? = STOP and think.  You will need to use your brain and the clues the author gave you to figure out the answer.  It's not spelled out in your text.

As we learn/review skills we place them next to the light/category they fall under.  Like "Who, What, When, Where" is all Green light questions, but "Another Title" would be red light.  I like going over the types of questions because once we taught this, I never again had a student come up and tell me, "I can't find the answer!"

  • Asking Questions - come up with example questions that would be considered head questions, heart questions, and hand questions.
  • The Inference Equation - What you read + What you know = What you infer
  • Clicks and Clunks - When the text flows and you "get it" it clicks.  When you come to a part that you don't understand or doesn't make sense, it's a clunk.  Show examples of how you might hit a clunk while reading and the strategies you use to make it click!
  • Rainbow Strategy Spots - use different color sticky notes for different strategies (example: wonder = yellow, connection = pink, etc.)
  • Word Solving Strategies - "The brain is not a rule-follower, but a pattern finder."  Use the patterns you know from other words to solve unfamiliar words.  A color-coded list of anchor words representing the most common prefixes and suffixes can be found here (it was just a document off of google, not sure who the creator is but if anyone knows please let tell me and I will give them credit): Nifty Thrifty Fifty.
  • Robot Reading and Opera Reading - using different voices to get out of that monotone robot voice.  Have students use an opera voice when they read the next time.  Some of my student's favorites are: Arnold, Texas Twang ;), Darth Vader, squirrel, and Jamaican. They came up with those on their own too! LOL
  • Active Bookmarks - Strategy based bookmark that requires the reader to reflect on a different action or reading process.  I recreated these from Lori's book!

  • Comprehension Shuffle - a great tool to use for ANY grade!  After reading a section of the text have students select a card at random and answer the comprehension skill on that card.  You can choose which skills to give them based on what your focus it.  Lower grades might only use 4-5 while upper grades will use more.  Directions and all materials you will need are included as well!  Click here to get your copy from the Positive Engagement Project.
The Reading-Writing Connection

I found it very interesting, and spot on, when it said teachers walk a fine line between setting standards for correctness and encouraging risk-taking and experimentation in their writing.  If you want students to write longer stories with more umph to their writing, you need to expect missing letters, punctuation, misspelling, etc.  Agreed!  Let them get "a little messy" and once they've got their idea down, then go back and perfect it.  Don't let that great idea slip away just because of perfectionism the first time.  Let me tell you, my perfectionism requires me to change my product at least 3-5 times before I'm happy with it and I def had some mini-me's in class last year, lol.  And if it is something that they put a lot of heart and effort into, they will also want to make it perfect... eventually.

I loved the lesson routines for this and can't wait to try them!  Like "Notice It! Name It! Try It! and "Gift of a Word."  I'm really excited to incorporate their Literature Response Journals into this reading-writing connection as well.  When they're just writing me a letter about how they feel about their book, they don't realize how many bases they are really covering.  They don't realize how much they are learning and growing!  After the second half of the year I will move from the journals into Kidblog :o)  I also think I'm going to try my hand at Classroom Journals.  I just heard about them and I am in love with the idea!  So I will be creating those shortly to share with y'all.  I'm going to include the Daily 5 (well really 3 - Read to Self, Word Work, and Writing Response) into our routine this year while I'm doing guided reading and after reading this chapter I really felt like a lot of these lesson routines can be included in that along with the must-do's  I'm very excited!

Okay, if you're still here after all of that, I commend you!  You're a trooper!  Make sure you grabbed all the freebies.  In case you missed it, there were about 4 throughout this post, lol.  So now I want to hear from you!  How are you incorporating the reading-writing connection?  Are you like me and pulling a little bit from everything you love or do you have a hard and fast method that you treasure?  Are you as excited as me?!?!  Thanks again for joining me today, it was my first time hosting and I really enjoyed it and appreciate your feedback/love :o)


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Year of Dates - July

As I mentioned a couple posts back, this Valentine's Day I made Mr. S a Year of Dates.  The first of every month we open a new envelope and he finds a (usually) new and pre-paid date.  If you look back here, you will find months February through June.  This month we are going to a Brazilian Steakhouse and Couple's Night at the local Chocolate Factory.  So after eating our own weight in meat, we will then go on to make our own 1 lb. of chocoate.  They haves different molds, fruits dipped in chocolate, etc.  Very excited!

Do you have any fun dates nights?


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Guiding Readers Ch. 4 & 5

I am linking up with Beth from Thinking of Teaching again for our Guiding Readers Book Study.  I know, I know!  I'm a smidgen late with the chapter 4 review but I've been battling a cold and I'm just starting to feel like myself again.  So today you get a two-for-one!

Chapter 4 - Guiding Early Readers

I was really impressed to see that early readers are expected to process most of the print on their own and that you don't need to read the text aloud for them.  That to me is a huge leap from the emergent readers!  The three main cueing systems are semantic (meaning), syntactic (language structure), and phonetic (letter-sound correspondence).  Also, we are starting to monitor comprehension through their self-monitoring.  It's important to give a lot of praise for this and point out what people did correctly!  It shows the other students in the group that there are different ways to self-monitor and self-correct. 

Light bulb moments:
  • Retelling is an important after reading focus at this stage.
  • "Talk to their brains"
  • The learning goals next to every lesson routine!  I don't know how I missed this in the earlier chapters, I guess I was so excited that I forgot to go back and read the sidebar notes.  But I love them!  SO helpful!
  • Loved how the teacher incorporated movements and questions into her Word-Building.  I even taught that skill as an assistant and I can't begin to tell you how much I feel that this would have made a difference.  Something they can remember back on and really understand!
  • Writing may be an even more effective tool for phonics instruction than reading because it calls for active learning.

Chapter 5 - Guiding Developing Readers

This is the transitional stage between oral reading and silent reading, tracking and fluency, and word-level and text-level comprehension.  Their nonfiction reading also expands.  Lori Rog included a great website to check out that lists books and series for all ages and interests ( 

Before Reading
There are no more picture walks but you might point out some illustrations.  The purpose for reading is focusing on comprehension strategies.  Same as before, with emergent and early readers, introduce vocab words ONLY if it necessary for understanding and the text does not give enough context clues to figure it out.

During Reading
You're only going to read a small chunk of text at a time and remember to not have them read aloud on their first reading.  Pick a place to pause and have the students read up to that point.  If they finish early, have them go back and reread (never hurt anyone).  After everyone has finished reading, discuss the reading process.  Continue this process until you finish the text.  On the first reading students are more focused on making sense of the text and the second reading is where they are more likely to think critically and focus on strategies.  After your comprehension goal is addressed then you can focus on a word-level goal!

After Reading
Spend a lot of time  discussing, interpreting, and evaluating what y'all read.  Encourage your students to support their opinions by going back and referencing the text.  Graphic organizers are very helpful when students want to categorize their information.  I noticed that some of my students are at this stage (yes, I teach 5th grade), not many of them but more than just one.  So I found this chapter very helpful in how to help those few struggling kiddos and pull them up to where they need to be.

Again, I just love the lesson routines and the sample areas of focus (good ideas for mini-lessons).  Don't forget that I will be hosting Chapter 6 next week!  Can't wait!!!


Two New Blog Awards!

Kaitlyn from Smiles and Sunshine has given me two awards!! The first is the Liebster Blog Award!

The award goes to blogs with less than 200 followers and here are the rules for the award:
  1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
  2. Thank the blogger who gave it to you and link back to them. - THANK YOU KAITLYN!!!
  3. Reveal your top 5 picks for the Liebster Blog Award and pass it on to them by leaving a comment on their blog. - Sorry I'm only going to be able to leave 3 because I need to get to bed so I can get better!  I can't kick this cold :o(
My Top 3 Picks are....

Layla from Fancy Free in Fourth

Fancy Free in Fourth
Emily from I Love My Classroom


The second award is the Versatile Blogger Award!  I also received this award from Sarah at Teaching Star Students (double honor)!  Here are the rules for this award:

  1. Thank the blogger who gave you the award. (Again, THANK YOU KAITLYN AND SARAH!)
  2. Include a link to their site. (Smiles and Sunshine and Teaching Star Students - def check them out)
  3. Include the award image.
  4. Give 7 random facts about yourself.
  5. Nomiante 15 other bloggers for the award.
  6. When nominating include a link to their site.
  7. Let other bloggers know they've been nominated!
Seve random facts about mysef:  Hmmmm...

1. I like bald cupcakes (not a big icing girl) and consider them on the same level as a muffin in the morning, lol, yes I'm well aware they are not but a girl can dream!

2. My birthday is on Valentine's Day.

3. If I couldn't be a teacher I would want to be a professional book reader... They have those right?  Well on Amazon, I always see people say "Amazon sent me this book to read and leave a review so here it is."  That's what I want to do!!!!!  I'll even do it AND be a teacher :o)

4. As you can tell from above, I'm an avid book reader. I love all genres and have a really hard time letting any of them go (for space purposes).  Which is a plus with the Kindle, I don't have to!

5.  I love it when they say the title of a book/movie in the book/movie!

6.  I'm a huge history nerd, shh.

7.  I could watch old movies all day: Alfred Hitchcock, musicals, Cary Grant, Doris Day, and the list could go on.

I am going to have to apologize now on how many people I give this award to.  I'm battling a cold right now and am doing this from my sick bed :o(  But here are a few that I know deserve it!

April from the Idea Backpack


Miss T from Journey of a Substitute Teacher


Katie from Dirty Hands and Lesson Plans


Denise from Yearn to Learn


Thank y'all so much for the wonderful honor and I hope you have a Happy 4th!


Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday Made It #4 - T.I.M.E.R. Tubs

I'm once again linking up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It!  This week is a little less crafty and more so having to do with creating a whole new section of my classroom.  As you all know, I only teach Reading, Language Arts, and Social Studies but I would like to incorporate Math into my classroom for multiple reasons.  The first being that most classrooms are predominantly reading literacy based (especially mine) and kids don't get to see a lot of math or even science literacy.  Even though I have an extensive selection of math and science literature books, they are not put on display very well and I don't have any posters for kids to absorb different kinds of vocab.  Which is fine because they get it when they go to those specific classes, but when my homeroom kids stay with me on Wednesdays, they are exposed to a reading room.  "What do I do when I'm done?" - "READ"  Again, perfectly acceptable!  But I wanted to switch it up a little and add in some math stations.  Secondly, I thought doing this would help relate to the children that all the subjects are connected, you use reading in math!  The same strategies we use in reading can also be used in math.  Lastly, I just wanted a little challenge, something a little different this year (and I sort of miss math, lol).

This week's Monday Made It is T.I.M.E.R Tubs!  I was looking online through all the wonderful blogs out there for math stations and ran across these two: Down Under Teacher and Adventures in Teaching.  Both of these blogs have wonderul examples of, essentially, guided math groups.  Since the county is doing a big push for guided reading, why not throw in a little guided math on Wednesdays to spice it up a bit?!  After reading these two blogs I came up with my own system that I knew would work for me and my kiddos.

How I envision this in my head (who knows, it could go totally wrong but I'm the kind of girl that's gotta try!) is that I will have a chart that says where students go that Wednesday, just like guided reading groups.  Students will either be at T - Team Up, I - Independent Reading or Working, M - Manipulatives, E - Expand Your Knowledge, or R - Review.  I plan to work mostly with the Review kids unless they are getting the hang of it and another group needs my help.  The students will switch tubs every week and I will change out the contents of the tub about every 4-5 weeks.  That is not to say that I won't be repeating some of the activities or even moving some of the activities to different tubs as the year progresses.  Click on the T.I.M.E.R. Tubs explanation above to grab your free copy and labels!

I got the wonderful bins at the Dollar Tree last week!  Can't beat a whole new math station for just $5!  A lot of my activities are things I created, pages from e-books from Scholastic's Dollar Deals, ideas from workshops, games/worksheets from The Mailbox magazine and the wonderful freebies that others share online.  Here are some of my favorites:
There are so many out there all you have to do is look!  If you have any great ideas, especially for 5th, please leave me a comment or link so I can add to the TIMER Tub collection.  Lord knows I need all the help I can get! LOL  Don't forget - today is the last day my Fraction Wars will be free to my followers!  Head over to my TPT store to grab your copy and leave me some feedback :o)