Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July Currently and Reading in the Wild!

Happy July, friends! Can you believe it's almost the fourth already??

Today I'm lucky enough to link up with two of my favorite bloggers, starting with Farley from Oh Boy Fourth Grade for my July Currently! 

Listening: My summer project has been to clean all my teaching supplies and college things in the basement, and organize them so I'm ready for August. Something about John Mayer just relaxes me and is perfect for organizing.

Loving: I've had time to FINALLY read so many books that I've been wanting to read all year, both professional and personal. See below for details about my favorite read this summer!

Thinking: I feel like every teacher feels the same way when July 4th comes around...summer is going by too fast! I have so much more to do!

Wanting: I've been so out of the loop on TpT. I want to start creating more files, and I have lots of little projects that I've started but never finished. So keep a look out and I promise that I'll have some new lovely products coming your way! :) 

Needing: Organization is a MUST and I've been slacking. I have so many bins, and am currently putting all my library books into them to keep them organized. From what I've seen and heard from other teachers, this is the best way to maintain a classroom library that is organized. I'm labeling everything by genre so that my students can do my 40 book challenge again next year with my new Reader's Notebooks! You can check out my post HERE for more info!

4th Plans: My family is visiting from Virginia this weekend, and we're taking them to some hometown Pittsburgh favorites including cheering on the Bucco's for some fireworks on the 4th and a trip to Kennywood the next day! 

Now onto my other favorite blogger, Catherine from The Brown Bag Teacher for the Summer Book Study! I know, I'm a little behind (only by a chapter!) 

I fell in love with Donalyn Miller after reading with her first book, The Book Whisperer. She gave me a whole new understanding of the meaning behind teaching literacy and how to foster lifelong readers in my classroom. I implemented her 40 Book Challenge this year, and saw tremendous improvements in the level of interest, vocabulary use, and writing of my students. 

Miller opens the first chapter by discussing the ways in which we need to make time to read for our students each day in school. I committed to a 15 minute quiet read time each day this year after recess. Students came in, and after the first week, knew the expectation was to grab a book and indulge in some quality reading time. What did I do during this time? Modeled my passion for reading, and read in a comfy spot, too. Sometimes, that even means on the floor! 

I know so many teachers who have asked how do I find the time for independent reading in my classroom? Well, my question is how do you not have time for independent reading? Students need choice! As we grow older, we lose our passion for reading as we are given requirements and books we have to read. Remember all those college textbooks you had to read? How many of them did you actually keep because you enjoyed reading? 

Students who spend their time reading, in school and out of school, are indefinitely more likely to achieve higher on standardized tests and develop a better vocabulary. Using time in school for students to read is an essential part of my instruction. As suggested by Miller, I use a reading/writing workshop in my classroom with use of mentor texts and mini-lessons to help make connections between what students are reading and what they are writing. 

Miller talks about how we can set aside time for independent reading in the classroom. She explains how we must be prepared for "reading emergencies" and always have a book. I've found this to be so beneficial for myself, especially with all the activities with which my family is involved. Getting oil in my car, waiting in line at the store, etc. are all great opportunities I've taken advantage of to get out my book and read. Teaching students about taking advantage of these spare moments is so important to foster a true love of reading. Even with the 40 book challenge my class did this year, as a first year teacher, I admit I never took advantage of these small opportunities we shared. All of those minutes truly add up and I look forward to challenging my students this year to take advantage of these "reading emergencies" in their life, both in and out of school. This could be waiting in line for special (gym, library, art, etc.), waiting for the bus, during transitional times, etc.

One of the ways I allowed for additional reading time in my classroom was doing the Lunch Bunch Book Club this year. Every Friday, students chose to come in and eat their lunch while discussing the book we were reading together. Spots were limited, so students would race to the sign up sheet each month to see the next book. I chose books from various genres to provide for different interests. This was something that my kiddos looked forward to! You can read more about this idea here.

I'm looking forward to seeing the other ways teachers foster independent reading in their classrooms! I love learning new things, and am always looking for ways to improve. I'd love to hear how you do this in your classroom!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday Made It: Reader's Notebook

Happy Summer friends! 

Today I'm linking up with Tara from Fourth Grade Frolics for my first Monday Made It of the summer!

This summer, my goal is to get organized for next year. On my to-do list right now is refining my reading strategies. This year I completed a thirty book challenge with my fourth grade students inspired by Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer. Now, I'm reading her second book, Reading in the Wild. As I read, I'm refining my Reader's Notebooks.
So, let me introduce to you the start of my new Reader's Notebook for next year. It's a model, that I plan to show students and have them create their own. 

I plan for students to decorate the cover of their spiral bound notebooks
during the first week of school. They can make them personal and unique.
One of the first pages of their notebook will include a reading timeline.
I want my students to see themselves as readers from day one.
I want them to think about why they are readers, and how they became readers.

A closer look at my timeline will show that I included books that
share personal impacts on my life as a reader. These books have shaped
the way in which I view my reading life.
My book timeline spans from my first book, to elementary
 and middle school, to my college life, and into my
recent year of teaching. 

Then, I want to have a section for genre blurbs where students can
determine what genre in which they are most interested, and discuss
why they like these kinds of books.

If you haven't yet, make sure to go to Tara's blog to check out more fabulous ideas for Monday Made It!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tried It Tuesday: WBT Scoreboard

Hello again bloggy friends! It's hard to believe it's already the end of the year! While I know most of you are busy with end of the year shenanigans, I've been busy with teaching applications, revising my resume, and updating all my clearances. I'm working towards (fingers crossed) my first "real" teaching position next year as a first year teacher at some lucky school district.

Anyway, for today's Tried it Tuesday, I'm linking up again with Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper.

One of the new strategies I've recently been using as a substitute is Whole Brain Teaching methods by Chris Biffle. Now for those of you who are familiar with WBT, I'm only dabbling in these techniques, and by no means, am I using it as effectively as I could in my own classroom. However, as a substitute, implementing some daily tricks like the The Scoreboard has helped with my traveling classroom management plan.

One of the reasons I started using WBT is the truth that "The longer we talk, the more students we lose." Students need 2 minutes of processing time for every 10 minutes of direct instruction. WBT creates a structured routine for this, where students can turn and talk about what they learned and activate their schema. With subbing, I try to implement this 10/2 ratio with my teaching, so that students, no matter what age, are always so busy being engaged in my lessons, they simply don't have time for poor behavior.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you may have seen this already!

I just love using the scoreboard as a substitute! Here's how it works:

1. I printed the scoreboard from Whole Brain Teaching with Style (she has the cutest WBT blog). I laminated the paper, cut it out, and attached it to an old lanyard. So, this is a virtually free (sans the cost of printing) class management system. It's super easy to implement, too! I use an Expo to write, and carry it around all the time - to Special, Lunch, etc.

2. I give tally marks for positive AND negative behavior. This is a group reward system, not individual. The one thing I tell every class is that my students have a reputation to know how to work together as a team to make positive choices. So, aside from the system in place for their classroom, I motivate students by increasing the amount of teamwork in the classroom. Every time I enter a classroom, even if it is for part of the day, I give this two minute spiel. (Yes, spiel. Believe it or not, I need to take 30 seconds to explain what a spiel is too!)

3. When awarding points, they are working to make me (the teacher) happy. This is pretty fool proof, because if a group of students say, "Well we think that it was a good idea to...(insert poor behavior choice here)" I can easily argue, "Well, that doesn't make me happy." So maybe it's a little self-centered. But, it works.

4.Students can earn "happy" points for working well in groups, being on-task, getting compliments from adults, etc. Every time a "happy" point is earned, kiddos get a ONE second (yes, that's right, one) celebration. They clap their hands in a circle and exclaim, "Oh yeah!" The trick is: they WHOLE class needs to do this all together, synchronously. If even one student (there's one in every class) carries on his or her one-second celebration for too long, they earn a "sad" point.

5. "Sad" points can be any poor choices made by the class. For every "sad" point they earn, they do a one second groan and should shrug with a quick "Ugh." Now, the trick is, I use Chris Biffle's 3 Point Rule - don't let there be more than 3 points between the positive and negative points. I tell the students about this, too. I let them know that if they are higher than 3 "happy" points, then I will be looking for negative behaviors, no matter how small. And, if a class is 3 higher in "sad" points, I will be looking for even the smallest amount of positive behavior. This is when I can be really impressed by a student who is struggling with his or her behavior, and allow them to earn a point for the whole class. Even if just one student is sitting in his seat like asked, I point him out and give the class a point.

6. How do I reward the class as a substitute? I reward the smallest rewards for the class, because my students work hard for their progress. Kids typically work towards one extra minute of recess. Yes, you read that right, ONE minute of recess. As a substitute, it can't be anything costly, or anything that is too much prep, since I never know what to expect. Typically, I ask that my class is the first ones out to recess that day if they win on the positive side. If not, they owe their teacher one minute the next day. Sometimes this goes toward a one minute YouTube video, an extra minute of free time, or a one minute dance party via GoNoodle.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Catching Up & Sparking Student Motivation

Hello again lovely followers!

Let me start by catching you up on something...

I know I've been away from the bloggy world for a few weeks. Let me explain..
My time in fourth grade as a permanent substitute has come to an end, so I have debated whether or not I should continue to post on this blog. At first, I thought I should not - leave it as is, and utilize it like an online portfolio. However, I remembered why I started this blog in the first place...to inspire others just as I have been inspired. It is a better opportunity to continue to post my ideas. I'm still the building substitute for my district, and working with grades 3 - 5. I still continue to incorporate my creative ideas into my lessons as a substitute, so I will share those, along with other ideas I have to offer. So please, I ask that you have an open mind as you continue to read my blog posts. Thank you, to those of you who have supported me on my blogging adventure, and who have inspired me to keep blogging.

On that note, I'm linking up today with Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching  to share an idea for Earth Day!

This time of year, I think we all need a little motivation. Maybe due to the state testing, or the change in the weather, or other reasons. But one thing's for sure - "it's THAT time of year." While there's plenty to celebrate in April (National Poetry month, autism awareness, Spring, Easter, etc.), I wanted to take some time to focus on one holiday, Earth Day. April 22nd marks Earth Day this year, and there's a ton of cute ideas out there on Pinterest, blogs, etc. to celebrate. However, I encourage you to try something new this year with a trending topic.

"Selfies." Yep, they're a trend. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, you name it. Social Media users everywhere are posting selfies, and chances are, if your students use social media, they are joining in this trend, too. Well, this year for Earth Day, NASA is making use of these pictures with the #GlobalSelfie initiative. With the constantly changing planet, NASA decided to create a more conducive image of earth, rather than just satellite mugshots. So, this year, people all over the world will be sending their respective selfies to NASA holding up a sign to show their location, and NASA will create a mosaic to combine these individual images to showcase our planet.

So, here's my idea to apply this in the classroom...

Have students take their own #GlobalSelfie, to create a classroom mosaic. You could join in the fun and use NASA's pdf  they provide users. This could be a lesson on latitude and longitude, and use Google Earth to find your exact classroom location. Or, you could have students write their promise to save the earth and "Go Green" and hold that sign in their selfie. 

 Depending on your district's technology available,  students can use laptops, iPads, etc. to take their selfie. Once it's taken, their picture could be uploaded onto Mosaically.com where you can choose a large image of the earth, and have students' pictures be the small images. 

This would make for a great classroom bulletin board display, or a grade wide display! What are you doing for Earth Day? 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Monday Made It (Early Bird)

Happy St. Patrick's Day, friends!

Today I'm lucky enough to link up with Tara from Fourth Grade Frolics for her Monday Made It!

Warning: some of these are pretty random - but I'm playing catch-up from last week!

Pi Day Friday!! Our class celebrated Pi Day on Friday and I made this little "Pi Day Swag Tag" for a lucky winner! As part of their morning work, students were able to memorize the digits of pi for a competition at the end of the day. I had planned that the student who recited the most digits from memory would win bragging rights to this "Pi Day Swag Tag," but three of my kiddos successfully recited over 41 digits of Pi! How impressive! So I had to make more of these lovely tags for the winners tomorrow. 

Also, we read "Sir Comference and the Dragon of Pi" which is a cute little math adventure picture book to teach about Pi (not to be confused with pie). 

And, to top it off, we created a chain to show what the digits of Pi look line. ( Found the idea on Pinterest!) 

I finished making my #LiftPackage! It was my first teacher package exchange, and I had an absolutely fabulous time getting to know both of my partners. This month's theme was "Teachers Love Teaching" if you couldn't tell from the little writings I included. :o) If you haven't heard of LIFT packages, I'd definitely suggest signing up for the April/May package exchange. Basically, you are paired up with another teacher and you spend some time getting to know each other through blogging, instagram, email; then, you put together a little gift box to help "lift" their spirits.  It's a great way to network, meet fellow teachers, and be supportive of other teachers. Check out LIFT Packages here

Yep, that's right, those are lyrics! What happens when you spend time looking for a resource and you just can't find one good enough? You write your own song, of course! 

I spent a large chunk of time this weekend looking for more creative ways to remember capacity/measurement terms. I went through countless YouTube videos, anchor charts, and Pinterest finds. Nothing - okay, nothing that I found was up to par for me. So when I heard my ringtone, Pharrell Williams' "Happy" song, I thought it would make the perfect tune for a capacity song! I'm thinking my students are going to have fun making this music video this week - a great break from all the test prep we've been doing! Stay tuned for the mp3! Maybe educational song-writing will be in my future??

Hope you have a lucky day!!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sparking Student Motivation: Social Studies Tour

Happy Saturday, friends!

Today I'm linking up for another Spark Student Motivation Saturday with Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching!

If you read my last post here, I talked about my Social Studies is coming to life in my exploring the regions unit. So far, we have still been boarding our boat (I turn all the chairs and desks around each day before Social Studies into a "U" shape so that the room is our boat, and students provide me - the captain - with a ticket before they board).

On Friday, we visited Florida, where we made three important stops. First, on our riverboat, we traveled to the Everglades, to learn about the biodiversity present there. We watched a fabulous tour video to learn about how alligators and crocodiles are cohabitants together in the Everglades waters, and received a brochure to keep as a souvenir.

Then, we went upstream to Cape Canaveral to visit the JFK Nasa Space Center and take a tour to learn about the United States' exploration in space.

Don't I look great in an astronaut suit? ;o)
Then, we took a bus to Orlando to visit Disney World - what trip to Florida would be complete without a trip to Disney, right?

Students brought in their favorite Disney item as souvenirs so we took a gallery walk around the room to view all the different toys, movies, and items that students were able to share. It was a fabulous experience for students who have been there to share with those who have not visited there before.

We are continuing to explore the Southeast region of the United States this week by taking a trip to the Gulf of Mexico, where we will explore the effects of oil spills, to Jamestown, Virginia, the site of the first permanent English settlement in America, where we will explore an interactive online game called The Online Jamestown Adventure.

Students have been keeping a travel journal (with pictures, both hand-drawn, and actual photos I've taken) to include to describe their learning from each place. This interactive, authentic approach to learning has definitely gotten students excited about Social Studies unlike ever before.

Enjoy the rest of you weekend!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Oh the Places We'll Go!

Is it just me, or is Dr. Seuss week one of the most fun weeks of all time?

To kick off our Seuss-tivities, we read, "Oh the Places You'll Go" and examined it. At first, we listened to the rhythmic quality of the story, and the richness of the pictures. Then, we listened to the richness of the words and discussed the meaning behind the story. We dug deep, and talked about the theme of the story. We hit on one of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes, too...

(We used this quote to tie into Social Studies, too. See how - stay tuned - later in this post!) We talked about how our life choices take us places, literally and figuratively. We discussed what it means to "move mountains" and our dreams and aspirations. We investigated the journeys we see ourselves taking as we get older. As we looked through the images of this story, students pointed out how on one page, the character in the story has a unique hot air balloon that stands out from all the rest. 

I gave them a blank template of the drawing (I sketched it and recreated it on white paper, then copied it). They went off and created their unique balloon, without coloring in the face of the character. I used their school picture (our district provides sticker versions of the class photos, which were perfect for this) and glued the picture on top of the face, so they could soar to new heights in their own unique balloon. Next, they wrote a narrative based on what places they plan to go in the future. Some students created the story from the perspective of their future selves, while others told the story of the places they would travel to accomplish their dreams. This is our "rough draft" to prepare for the personal narratives we will be writing over the next few days. Our hallway display came out really nicely with their writing and hot air balloons. What do you think? 

Okay...maybe I went a little overboard drawing this poster, but it was sooo worth it!

Unfortunately, I can't show you the faces, but I promise they look really cute
put on those cartoon bodies!

We also tied in the "places" we can go in with Social Studies as we started our Regions of the United States Unit. Let me tell you - by far, this is my favorite subject to teach right now, and I am not a "Social Studies person." Now, I in no way can take credit for this idea, as I got it from a fabulous third grade teacher featured on Scholastic's webstite, Beth Newingham. In order to learn about the Southeast, we are taking a trip to (almost) all the states in that region to learn more about the culture, history, and places we can visit. For those of you who read my last post, I blogged about this in my March Currently. My "????" theme for March was sailor hats, Minnie Mouse ears, and Mardi Gras masks, and the question that those are the answer to is "What souvenirs will our class bring back from our trip to the Southeast Region this week?" 

Prior to our tour, we read about the Southeast. We discussed what states made up this area, the landforms that we could encounter, the climate, and the differences between the upper Southeast and lower Southeast region. After discussing the means of transportation most commonly used (historically) in the Southeast, we decided that the best way people could tour the area was by boat. So of course, we started our journey by sailing over the waters to the Southeast. Now, to make our learning a bit more authentic, I created tickets and used Beth Newingham's tour sheets so students could track their adventure throughout the unit. 

Starting on Tuesday, as the students were at art, I rearranged the room to create our boat. Using the kidney table as the bow (the front of our river boat). I aligned the desks so encompass the room, and create a "U" shape for our boat - all 24 of our chairs fit inside, in nice, neat rows. As students returned from art, I put on my captain's hat, and allowed gave them a ticket to enter the room. Students entered the boat from the stern (back of the boat) and walked along the starboard (right) side to their seat. After all students boarded, the person on the end counted the tickets, turned them into the captain, and invited their row to put on their (imaginary) life vests. We were ready to set sail along the Mississippi River to New Orleans on our Natchez Riverboat!

Captain "selfie" as we were about to set sail -
sailor hat, and all!

With our background knowledge in mind, we started our tour by venturing to New Orleans, Louisiana to celebrate "Fat Tuesday," or Mardi Gras. We listened to the sounds of the water and watched a video of how the boat works, where we travel, and the history of New Orleans. Then, we discussed the importance of Carnival or Mardi Gras, then and now. We looked at the origins of Mardi Gras came from, and why it's celebrated. If you're interested in a little information booklet I made for my kiddos, it's available for just a dollar in my TpT Store! (Yep, my store is just like the Target Dollar spot!)

After learning about the traditions, including kings cake, doubloons, and masks, we created our own masks to celebrate Mardi Gras. 

After our Mardi Gras celebration, we listened to the four different styles of jazz that originated in New Orleans: Dixieland, Bluegrass, Delta Blues, and Cajun. After learning about what differentiates each musical style, we identified them based on their instrumental qualities. They listened to all four kinds of music and had to hold up a card to show which type of music they thought was playing. 

The second day, we sailed to Tennessee, to visit Memphis. We learned about how the blues originated from slaves singing about working on the cotton plantations. We also took a tour of Graceland, to discover how Memphis is the "Home of the Blues" and "Birthplace of Rock n Roll."We learned (of course) about "the King" himself, Mr. Elvis Presley, and took a tour of his home in Graceland. We compared Elvis to popular music artists today. One of the things we found to be interesting, was the fact that Elvis purchased the large mansion for his family, since his parents were not very wealthy when he was growing up. Today, we talked about how an artist like Justin Timberlake might not be as apt to buy his family a mansion. Then, we made postcards to as souvenirs to detail about our trip. 

Today, we continued our riverboat tour as we sailed to Montgomery, Alabama and Natchez, Mississippi to discover the roots behind slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. Both places are rich in African American history. We started in Natchez, where we visited a cotton plantation and learned about how cotton was a crop that changed the lives of many African Americans who were forced to work as slaves in the fields. Then, we learned about the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery. We learned about a very important six-year-old girl named Ruby Bridges, who was one of the first African Americans to attend an all white school in the 1960s. Then, took a walk in an African American's shoes during the 60's, and we made posters as our souvenirs to protest for equal rights. 

So far, this unit has been a fabulous way to spark motivation in Social Studies. Yesterday, one of my dear girls was absent; today when she came in, instantly three students said "You missed so much yesterday - we took the boat to Graceland and learned about Elvis and the Blues!" This put a smile on my face to know that this authentic learning is (hopefully) something that will stay with them as they learn about the regions of the United States. Tomorrow we visit Florida - oh the places we'll go in Florida - so stay tuned for more happy sailing!