Monday, April 29, 2013

She's At It Again... My Amazing Librarian!

First of all... WINNER!!!  Hubby picked #31 so, Teacher Gone Digital gets my 3rd grade ELA CCSS 100 days of review for free!  I'll e-mail it to you ASAP!  If you missed my post on this yesterday, here's the link for more info.  I've already got about 25% of the 2nd grade CCSS one done so look for that soon!
Check it out on TpT or TN

I put mine together and here's how it turned out...

Well, I blogged earlier this month about what our librarian did for Reading Month... it was amazing!

And, she's at it again!

She caught me snapping pictures of these things today and kept passing the credit off, but I can't let her do that!  She got the idea from Scholastic, but she took the time to do this and that's what I think is so awesome!

The kids couldn't WAIT to check out the new bulletin board she did outside of the library... it's a giant periodic table of the elements and each students' initials are on here along with the highest AR point club they've made at this point in the year.


And she built this DNA strand (aka- the ladder!) outside of the library to go along with the idea that reading is in your genes...

How cool is that?!  The kids were so pumped about going to the library today so they could see this!  She does such a good job keeping kids excited about reading... I love it!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

CCSS Daily Skill Review... Want One?

Phew!  I just finished a huge project I've been working on for my classroom next year...  I am so excited about this one!!!

A set of CCSS ELA review cards to use for about the first 100 days of school!
Check it out on TpT or on Teacher's Notebook!

There are 100+ passages, grammar reviews, and each one shows what the goal is and what standard it connect to.

It addresses tons of ELA standards!

There are 100+ review cards.  I'll be binding mine like one of those daily calendar type things for us to do each day during our morning meeting!  This pack is specific for 3rd grade CCSS, but if you aren't using CCSS or want to challenge 2nd graders or help your 4th graders review, it would be great too!

It's on sale right now for $1 off for the next week and I'll be starting on 1st and 2nd grade this week!

If you'd like to win a copy, just leave a comment saying anything on this dreary Sunday.  Hubby will pick a lucky winner (or two) randomly this week!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I Can Display My "I Can" Statements... and YOU Can Too!

It's Wednesday!  Yay!

I'm guest blogging over for the sweet Ashley Reed.  I'm sharing how I post "I can" statements.

I hope you'll head to her blog and check out my post!

Just click her blog button to head over!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Independent Work During Guided Reading

It's Friday!!!!  Yay!  Tomorrow I am going to see Cathy Ribgy perform in "Peter Pan" with my sister.  I can't wait!  We were o-b-s-e-s-s-e-d with the Mary Martin "Peter Pan" movie as kids and, last year for Christmas, she gave me the Mary Martin soundtrack and I gave her tickets for this show... so we were totally in sync with our childhood!

Anywho... I wanted to pop in today to share with you how I manage the independent work my students must do during guided reading.

This is not to say what they are doing while I am doing guided reading, because the answer to that is DAILY FIVE.

This is what my reading groups are doing because I do often give them reading assignments that they must complete on their own during the week so that we can talk about them when we meet.  It's REALLY hard sometimes because my groups in the two classes I teach are very different as far as skills and abilities go... each class has 5 groups and all groups in all classes are doing something just a little bit different.  So, I don't always remember to remind them to get their independent reading and things done.

And this was born:

Not all of my groups have independent things they have to do, but the ones that do have a little slip and the kiddos know to check this and be sure they are getting their things done.

It's right in the back of my room, where they check every day to see if I'm meeting with them for Daily Five, so they all see it and it's a great reminder!

In the beginning of the year, I had three pocket charts here and kids physically made Daily Five choices every day.  By now, they are responsible enough to just mark their choices off on their check-sheet each day and we don't do physical choices in the chart anymore.  The two papers on either side of the chart are my weekly group schedules so kids can check and see when I am meeting with their group.

These groups don't change a whole lot.  They are leveled groups where we read like texts at a common level.  When I do skill or strategy work and someone in the group doesn't need it, they get a bonus round of Daily Five... which they love!

Hope that gives you an idea for a quick and easy way to help your students remember what they need to do and when!

PS- I've got an AMAZING giveaway in the works when I get 100 more followers!  If you aren't following, please do... or pin a picture to help spread the word about this little blog of mine!  :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ziploc Baggie Quilt DIY Project

Happy Hump-day!  I can't believe it but I only have about 30 more days of school... it's completely NUTS!

Even though the year is almost over, it's not too late for a DIY project... or, if it is too late, pin this picture and make yourself a class quilt out of baggies this summer!

My friend made one of these for her 4th grade class and I knew I HAD to make one too.  We don't have tack strips or individual class bulletin boards at my end of the building, so whenever we put stuff up in the hallway, we have to tape it.  The tape doesn't always hold well and it's a lot of work to rip tape, loop it, and cross your fingers that it will stick.  Not only that, but for GOOD tape (ie. Mavalous tape), it's really expensive!

So, this weekend I went to Target (obviously!) and bought these materials.  I had the scissors at home, but did buy a box of Ziploc baggies, two rolls of patterened Duct tape, and one roll of plain.

Our class sizes range from the upper 20s to 30, so I made my quilt 5 x 6 so I'd have 30 bags.  I have 26 kids this year, but you never know what the future will hold!

I started by just taping two bags together.  This is the front of my quilt.  I laid the baggies updside down so the logo won't show when I have student work inside and just taped:

Here's the back.  I did run a strip of clear Scotch tape across on the back after I put the tape on the front.  It helped adhere the bags together as well as not making the sticky part of the tape on the back exposed.

 Then I added two more bags...

I kept adding bags until it looked like this:

I forgot to snap a picture of the next step.  It was the hardest and a few of my edges are a little "lumpy", but next I used the plain purple tape to make a border all the way around my quilt.  It was helpful to so about half of each side at a time.  I put the purple tape down on the front and then folded it over on to the back.  When I did that, a few of my baggies ended up being taped closed on the back, so I just cut them open again.

So, here's what it looks like... hanging up in my house with a piece of paper inside!

And here's the whole thing from the font...

Here's a close up of the back.  You can see where the opening of the baggie is left unsealed in the back to slide in student work.

Here's the view of the whole back...

It took me about an hour and a half to complete this quilt.  Aside from the purple tape around the edge, it was pretty painless!  A few of my lines ended up a smidge crooked, but I think that once there is work inside, you won't really notice!

So, there you have it!  My weekend project!  I hope you'll pin this pic and give yourself a project for the summer!

My brain is just swimming with variations on this... you could make a 3x3 one and put it at a center with directions for activities inside each one, or put in 9 different activities and students would have to complete three of them to make a tic-tac-toe of activities related to the topics you are studying... I'd LOVE for you to leave your ideas in the comments below for me and others to read!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Notice Anything Different About Me?

Well, do you?  Do you?  No... I didn't get new shoes.  No those aren't new glasses.  I did get my haircut this weekend (4 inches off... which no one has noticed!), but that's not what I'm talking about...

I got a new blog header thanks to the talented Christi Fultz!

I just popped on to say... check out that great new header!

Also... I am dangerously close to two milestones... less than 20 followers away from 2,000 on Facebook and a little more than 100 from 3,000 on my blog!  I'll be having a big celebration when both of those are met... so if you aren't following, please do!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Working and Lovin' It in a Departmentalized Elementary School

You all probably know that I moved to a new school and grade this year... I love it!  :)  But, I wanted to post today because my building is a departmentalized elementary school and I've seen a lot of questions about departmentalizing floating around the web... so I just want to give you a day in my shoes and my 2 cents on departmentalizing in elementary...

Strap in for a long one!

There are grades 3-5 in my building with four teachers per grade.

Our "departments" are... 1 math teacher in each grade, 1 sci/ss teacher, and 2 ELA teachers in each grade.

So, we start our day in "homeroom".  In 3rd grade, we have our kids from 7:35-8:35.  We do normal classroom stuff at this time... lunch count, morning work, morning meeting, AR, etc...

At 8:35 until 9:10, 3rd grade has "success time" which is our intervention time.  I posted about this once before.  It works like clockwork in 3rd grade.  It's GREAT for our kiddos!

Then 3rd grade has their specials from 9:15-9:50.

At 9:55, 3rd grade switches for their first two blocks.  Fouth and fifth grades begin around this time too.  Our blocks are all running at about the same time, school wide, it's just a few minutes difference because our lunch times are a little different.

My students gather up their things and go to math for 50 minutes.  They go to their sci/ss teacher for 50 minutes after that.

During that time, half of the 3rd grade (2 classes) is in ELA.  And I teach ELA to one of the classes for both blocks and the other class goes to the other ELA teacher.  We have about 110 minutes and do writing and then use Daily Five to run and manage our guided reading groups.

At 11:40, the first two blocks have ended and it's time for lunch.  Kids return to their classrooms and we have lunch and recess for almost an hour.

After lunch, I do my class read aloud until about 1pm and then I have my own kids for ELA for the rest of the day.  We usually end at about 2:40/2:45ish.  We pack-up, pick-up, and dismiss at 2:53.

The thing that is confusing when I try to explain this to others is who is where and when.  When the year started, each grade level had 1 ELA teacher, but we found that there was not enough time to get all of our ELA in during 1 block.  So, we went to 2 ELA teachers so kids had twice as much time in ELA.  It's hard to explain... so check out the table:

So, in each grade level, the math and sci/ss teachers teach all 4 sections, but each ELA teacher teaches 2 sections each for twice as long.

Here's what I love about just teaching ELA...

*ummm... lesson planning!  It's so much easier!  I love focusing on just one thing and doing that one thing really well.

*It is definitely my strength and passion.  I am excited everyday because I am teaching what I love.  Don't get me wrong, I loved teaching everything when I taught self-contained, but reading and writing are near and dear to me and I definitely LOVE teaching them more than the others!

*Our students get their core subjects every day.  When I taught self-contained, it was so easy to let a math lesson or a reading lesson go over (or find a craft or project the night before and just HAD to do it the next day!) and just shove science or social studies out of the way until tomorrow... and, sometimes, tomorrow never came!

*There is no time for wasting time... and I use "wasting time" because I don't have a better word or phrase for it.  I felt like I used every teaching second before, but I realize that there was a lot of "extra" time in my day that I didn't know was there.  But, because I am on time constraints since other people are depending on me to do my job in a timely manner, I can't waste a second.  I never realized how much extra time I really did have during the day because I had my own class all day and knew I could make up anything we missed during the other time that I had my kids.  I have to be twice as aware of my time now because others are depending on me!

*Our students are constantly moving.  We really don't have a lot of behavior issues.  Our kids are up and going to the next activity.  They get to bond with three teachers every day and feel success in different ways in different places.

*I am no longer an island.  I'll admit, I LOVED being an island.  I LOVED doing what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted.  LOVED.  A lot.  But now that I am part of a team that depends on me and whom I also depend on, I love being part of something that is working toward a common good for all 3rd grade students.  And not that I wasn't part of a team before, but we didn't have to depend on each other or coordinate with one another.  We didn't have to have a common goal because we were all islands.  Which, like I say, I LOVED... but working together in such a way as I do now, is awesome!

*Consistency!  Holy smokes are we consistent.  Every student in my school is getting the same message as every other student in their grade level which will SO prepare them for the next grade!

*From a money standpoint, you wouldn't need sets of everything... we do have four sets of the reading series from the time when each teacher taught each thing... but now only the ELA teachers are using them, so if we have the need to buy another series at some point, we'd only need half as many.  You know what I mean?

Some things you need if you are going to departmentalize...

*Staff buy-in.  Enough said.

*An administration that will be flexible as you adjust and who can provide you with time to connect both with your grade-level team and your subject-area team.

*Common expectations and procedures among your grade-level team.  We accomplish this with "clip sticks" which are portable clip charts that travel from room to room (and even to specials!) and by having common "finger signals" in our classrooms for needs that require movement.  Click either picture for more info! 

*Along with common expectations and procedures, comes having a team that can accomplish commonalities together.  My 3rd grade team is the best... we work together very well and depend on each other to make the whole grade level work.  The other 3rd grade ELA teacher and I plan together every week and are always talking during the week about what's working, how things are going, and things we need to keep working on.

*You also have to re-train your way of thinking about your students... because they aren't "your" students anymore.  They are "our" students.  I love knowing that so many people are working together for the common good of our students.  And though my homeroom kids are "my" kids, I also know that they are someone else's kids too.  We share successes, brainstorm solutions to problems, and are all ultimately responsible for the success of all the students, which I think is super cool.

*Simple, but something to think about.  Your kids need a way of transporting their materials from one place to the next.  In 3rd grade, each subject area classroom has the text books and things kids need there, so our kids aren't carrying text books or anything from place to place.  Our kids have these big plastic bags that they store their FALCON folders, which are folders they take home each night with homework etc... (if you saw my HORSE when I taught before, that's what this is but FALCON is our mascot and we needed folders, so Families and Learning Communicating & Organizing Nightly was born!), pencils, books they need, or whatever else.  We also have a Google Doc that is our weekly homework sheet.  Each of us adds what we need to for the grade-level for the week and there is a spot at the bottom where we can add our own personal notes to our classroom families.  We print them off on Monday and the kids have a weekly homework sheet that touches base with each teacher.  They keep their HW sheet in their FALCON.

I'm not a fan of desk cleaning/seat sack cleaning or other such things, so my students' bags need a good going through, but you get the idea.

Sometimes people say things to me about being departmentalized and how they think it's too hard for the kids, or we're making it less "elementary school" for them because they aren't connected to one teacher only.

In my opinion, that is just not true.  The 3rd graders adjusted quickly and our transitions are smooth and quick.  Because we have such similar expectations and share a common behavior management system, there isn't much confusion among students about what to do or how to do it.

As for students not being connected to only one teacher, that's GREAT!  I don't see that as a negative at all.  Now they have many teachers who care about them.  Not only that, but all of the students have opportunities to bond with other adults.  When I taught 2nd grade, I had a former student come tell me once that he knew his 3rd grade teacher didn't like him.  It broke my heart!  How miserable for that student to have spent an entire year with a teacher that made him feel unliked!  Our students get a chance to connect with more than just their teacher.  They get to experience different teaching styles and interact with their learning in different ways throughout the day.   We still take days where we don't switch classes.  We still do holiday parties and field trips.  We all still have student art work of some kind or another hanging in our classrooms and friendly competitions between classes and grades.  We haven't taken anything away from our students or made the day any less "elementary" for them.  We have made learning consistent and accessible.  We have ensured that everyone learns all core subjects every day.  We have made a place where collaboration and communication help everyone be more successful in 3rd grade.

So, what if you're in a small school?  Do a two-way switch!  One of you could teach ELA in the morning to your class and then ELA in the PM to the other class, while the other teacher does math/sci/ss or whatever!

If there is only one teacher of your grade, do a switch with the grade above or below you... you can teach 1st grade reading in the AM and 2nd in the PM while the other teacher does 2nd grade math and sci/ss in the AM and 1st grade in the PM.  It's totally doable!

I hope that gives you a glimpse into what we do each day... and answers some questions!  As summer approaches and we're all thinking about how to make our schools and classrooms better for next year, hopefully this gives you something to think about!

I'd be happy to entertain other questions or concerns... just leave a comment!

Friday, April 12, 2013

We Won the Amazing Race!

So, I have, quite possibly, the best elementary school librarian ever in my school building.  She is so in tune with what kids want to read, is constantly adding new books to our library, and works so hard to make sure kids are acknowledged for reading successes and accomplishments.

For reading month, she orchestrated a month-long "Amazing Race" complete with daily challenges where a student from each classroom had to listen to a clue on the announcements, race to find the "marker", find the question inside for his/her classroom, race back, read the question, write down the answer, and return it to the library for bonus points!

Kids completed a reading "passport" that had them reading 7 different genres and taking tons of AR tests... each class had a marker on this bulletin board in the hallway and she moved the pieces along the path according to how many points the class had accumulated.  Each grade level needed a different number of points to move a continent.  We needed 50 classroom points to move to the next continent...

Here's another view of the bb...

The kids checked it every morning before school and couldn't wait to leave at the end of the day to check it again!

Each grade level had one winning class... the class that reached North America first!  It was mine!  My kids were so excited... we had to wait until an assembly after spring break to find out who won and mine were on pins and needles!  One of my girlies said, "Yes!  I always knew were were awesome!" when we took our trophy back to the classroom!

All together, for the month of March, here is how many books were checked out of the library, AR points were accumulated school-wide, and how many words were read by students in my building...

Do you see those cards between the points and words signs?  Each class had tons of those squares- the "vehicle" on them matched each class' marker on the main BB.  For every 100% on an AR test, students wrote their name on the paper for their class and dropped it off at the library.  Those are hung all up and down our hallway.  It's pretty impressive!

I'm proud to say that my 3rd graders got almost 600 of those points in the month of March!

How did you celebrate Reading Month in your school?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Have You Met My Friend Tracy... a "What's Working Wednesday"... a Little Late!

If you haven't... you're missing out!

I just HAD to post today to give a shout out to my friend Tracy over at Creekside Teacher Tales.

She is the sweetest friend... so sharing and caring... and SO creative!  I love following her blog and her TpT store!!!!

So, I'm linking up with Gina and Brandi and sharing what's been working for me and that is using Tracy's stuff.  It's seriously amazing.

We've been using Tracy's reading passages in class to work on comprehension.  I've gotta tell you... her Non-fiction Animal passages are one of the greatest things I own!

When we started these, the kids were not doing great on them.  They're tough!  Students read a passage written at an upper elementary level and answer questions that come directly from the text... and it was HARD for them!

Now, we're doing one weekly and their scores have dramatically improved since starting this pack.  We've used her author's purpose pages from the pack and there are SO many goodies in there... it's AMAZING!!!

So, for the rest of the year, we're going to switch off and do these one week and then fiction passages and assessments the next week.  Guess what... Tracy's got a pack for that too!

We're going to read and test on the passage "The Rescue" tomorrow and I know my kiddos will LOVE the graphics so much!

So, that's what's been working.  I'm getting some great assessing in thanks to Tracy!

Since I'm bragging about my friend, I have to tell you abut my favorite, favorite thing I own from her...  "Find Us Forever Homes"!  This thing is ridiculously awesome.  Not only is it full of super cute dogs, but it has students practicing SO many critical reading comprehension skills!
I hope you'll check Tracy out and link up with Gina and Brandi to show off what's been working for you this week!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Using Computer Programs to Teach and Learn

I recently received a surprise package from Lakeshore Learning and was so excited to find it full of their amazing computer software titles!

Have you ever tried their software?  It's GREAT and these are no exception.  I love the math "Bubble Pop" game... students can set up their own individual accounts and progress through levels of math facts at their own pace.  We've been working really hard on math interventions and this game has been a great way to practice!

The "Phonics Quiz" game is a Jeopardy style game where teams can compete to earn points and show off their phonics skills.  This would have been PERFECT for me when I taught 1st and 2nd grades last year!  I already own the math, science, language arts, vocabulary, and grammar quiz games and LOVE LOVE LOVE them.  They are geared for 1st-3rd grade and we love doing them together for fun.  I display it up on my screen and use my Mimio pad to help us interact with it... kiddos buzz in with our Eggspert and it's a totally interactive way to practice skills!

My absolute favorite software purchase that I've made from Lakeshore, that you simply HAVE to purchase, is the Interactive Graphic Organizers download.

I have this on my computer and we use it often... when I introduce comprehension skills we can pull it up, look at the organizer, use the Mimio pad to write on it (or, if you had an interactive white board that would be even better!), and print!

Each organizer comes with a story that has been written especially for that type of comprehension skill that you can print or read on the screen and then students can complete their own printable organizer.  It also saves your work as you go, which I love!

I bought this when I taught 1st/2nd grade and used it often then and still use it now as a 3rd grade teacher... it's really versatile!

They even have some that would be AMAZING for morning work... I would LOVE to get my hands on this one.  It's a grade 3/4 Daily Interactive Language Station.  They also have PLINKO style games... I know my kiddos would love using those too!

I would highly recommend any of their software... it's fun, engaging, and students don't even know how much learning they are actively doing... and it comes from Lakeshore so you know it's awesome!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Outing My Stalker

I have a blog stalker.  Now, I have been known to stalk a blog or two in my day... but my stalker e-mails me, calls me when I haven't posted lately, and reads all of my posts and your comments!

Today that person is being outed.


It's my mom!  :)

She's the best and I love her!  She recently stalked some comments and so I'm going to let her choose the winner of the two products I posted about yesterday (Earth Day flippy book and complete sentence/fragment hall hunt)...

You all shared some awesome sounding historical vacation sites with me and I'm SO going to be talking to hubby about going to some of them... but my stalker e-mailed me one that she thought would be particularly interesting.  She didn't know this was going to happen, and neither did I... so it's a surprise for everyone!

My mom likes Angela Nerby's suggestion to go to historic Wisconsin... it's just across the lake from me (which sounds really close when I say it like that!) and so it might even be do-able in the near future!  Anyway Angela, my mom likes the sound of your trip and so you're the winner!

Keep up the great stalking, mom!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Knock, Knock... Who's There... It's Me!

I'm back from my Spring Break and am so thankful for the amazing friends who helped me out by guest blogging while I was gone!  I know you all loved the posts that they shared!  I loved reading them!

Hubby and I went to the east coast.  We drove through New York state, stopping at Wakins Glen State Park and Taughannock Falls too.

We even randomly happened to drive through a Bainbridge, New York!  We stopped in the dark and we (I) took pictures of everything that said BAINBRIDGE on it for scrapbooking purposes!

Then we went to Worcester in Massachusetts and stayed with a friend for a few days.  We went into Boston for a day, ate some ah-mazing seafood, and then went to Concord, Lexington, Salem, and Gettysburg.  It was a very historical trip, which are our favorites!

Yeah.  I didn't know this would have EYES and little tiny LEGS when I ordered it!  Note to self... next time be sure it says STUFFED TAIL!  It was still tasty... but I totally felt like the family in "A Christmas Story" when they bring out the duck at the end and the mom's dying with laughter!


I even got to see NYC in the distance as we left Salem to drive to Pennsylvania... which, if you've followed this blog for two seconds, you know is my all-time favorite place on this EARTH!

Here's a scene from Gettysburg...  This was a seriously amazing trip.  Like one you need to go on.  Immediately.

We NEVER take such unstructured trips and we just decided on a whim to go to Gettysburg.  I would love to go back and spend more time, do the audio tour, etc... The museum is awesome... and have you ever seen or heard of the Gettysburg Cyclorama?  Holy smokes.  THAT was incredible!
And The House of the Seven Gables in Salem... which was so cool!  They also have Nathaniel Hawthorne's home next to THotSG and The Scarlet Letter is one of my favorite books, so I loved going there too.

All right, fine, so we're history nerds.  We LOVE taking trips like this.  No beaches and sand and suntans for us!

So, that's what I was up to last week!

Since we've been home, I've added two new products to my shop.  If you leave me a comment and tell me your favorite historical vacation spot (we're always looking for more!), I'll pick a winner tomorrow and send you BOTH items!

Earth Day flippy book!  This has lines for both primary and intermediate...

Find it on TpT  or Teacher's Notebook

And this delicious donut classroom or hallway hunt for identifying complete sentences and fragments!  There's also a center activity and a craftivity!  I know this is probably a beginning of the year thing for most people... it is for me!... but I couldn't wait to make this with these adorable graphics!
 Find it on TpT or Teacher's Notebook

Ok!  That's it!  Tell me where I should go on my next vacation... as long as it's historical!  I'll pick a winner tomorrow!
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