Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tried It Tuesday - Interactive Math Notebooking

Well, today is another snow day. The FOURTH snow day of the year! Can you believe it? Wind chill in the negative twenties is no treat. As much as I think everyone enjoys a snow day, I wish there was a way to catch up on rest without losing any instructional time. On the bright side, snow days have made me super productive!

With my day off, I figured I would finally join in the fun for a Tried It Tuesday with Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper!

Lately, one of my personal goals has been to focus a lot on revamping my literacy components of teaching. On a larger scale, our school's goal has been looking at new math programs. So while I've been exploring curriculum books for the past few weeks, I've also been exploring some resources in bloggy world, which are teacher-tested, and kid-approved. One of the trendy topics right now seem to be interactive notebooks, so I decided to give those a try.

One of the techniques that I fell in love with, is inspired by Jen from Rundee's Room. I have been doing two pages of notes with my students. We've done this for the past week, as we started our Geometry unit, and I'm honestly really digging this little routine. We open our notebooks to two blank pages. The left side of their notes is their thinking. They rewrite the learning goal in their own words, talk about what they know, what they learned, and then answer a question I leave them with at the end of each lesson by providing proof and a reflection.
Day 1: Exploring Polygons (Left Side)
We talked about 2D polygons and their properties.
For their proof portion of their notes, I asked: "Is a circle a polygon?"

Day 3: Types of Angles (Left Side)
For their proof/reflection portion of their notes I gave them
a challenge. I asked: "What polygon contains all four angles
(right, obtuse, acute, and straight)?" Answer - a right trapezoid.

Day 3: Types of Angles (Left Side)
Another example of our notes that day. This student got the
right trapezoid without using trial and error!

The right side of their notes is the information I am teaching them. They start by writing their learning goal according to the PA Core Standards, any vocabulary terms, and then create some sort of manipulative.
Day 1: Exploring Polygons (Right Side)
In pairs, students had to create as many polygons as they
 could think of from two pieces of paper. They used rulers to
show straight lines, and then named the shapes. We stored
them in this envelope so we can use them again when we
compare and contrast various quadrilaterals.
Day 3: Types of Angles (Right Side)
We used two pieces of construction paper to cut arrows
and attach them with a brass fastener. I got this idea directly
from Rundee's Room.  I loved the colored paper so I could
easily see who could make an obtuse and versus an acute angle
as a quick formative assessment. 

Underneath our arrows, we created this foldable for notes on each
of the four angles. We drew a diagram, defined the term, and then
wrote down some classroom examples of each angle. 

I'm so excited to continue this fabulous notebooking idea! I'm trying to branch out with more ways for students to look at math differently - especially since what they're asked to do with the adoption of Common Core. 

Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday, friends! Stay cozy! 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sparking Student Motivation on a Snowy Saturday

Happy Saturday, friends!

I hope somewhere there is warm weather - here it's been snowing all day! So on this snowy Saturday, I'm linking up with Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching.

Lately, I've been feeling like I'm finally in the swing of things. No t that I wasn't confident in my teaching before this, but I just have that feeling where our class is in a routine. I feel more confident, and I feel like our lessons are moving more smoothly. So now, my goal has been to revamp our literacy block a bit to allow for more engaging activities. Our school is so fortunate to have two and a half hours at the end of the day dedicated to reading instruction. So while I've been using them to the best of my ability, I'm ready to kick things up a notch. 

One of the things I've been working on is my FOCUS board for ELA.
Oops! Just ignore the ants, I forgot I left my suffixes poster up from last week! 

Each week we focus on grammar, vocabulary, comprehension, spelling, and writing skills. While we cover most of these during our literacy center time on Thursdays and Fridays, I have been trying to update them with larger posters to which students can refer. This week, I'm making resources for main ideas, irregular verbs, spelling, multiple-meaning words, and persuasive writing. I'm hoping this will be a useful reference to motivate students to stay on track of their learning for language arts. 

In one of my recent posts, I talked about how I've been incorporating more work with vocabulary by using these vocabulary lanyards each day.  Check out that post here

Well, I've come up with something else for my students to try this week! I present to you, Vocabustrations!

Remember the game "telephone," where you start with one word (for example, banana), whisper it in someone's ear, and after it goes around the room, it's a completely different word (like zebra)? Well, the concept is pretty much the same here. It's based off the game, Telestrations, which you can see an example below.

For Vocabustrations, students will be divided into groups of 4 - 5 players. Each student will choose a vocabulary word and write their word on the "Secret Word" page. 

Then, the timer gets turned and the same student draws their word. They have 60 seconds to sketch their vocabulary word. Once the timer goes off, that player turns to page two, and they pass the book to the player on their left. 
Then, each player takes a few seconds to guess in words what they see, and passes their book again to the player on their left. The timer is turned again for 60 seconds, and everyone draws what they see. 
This play continues until everyone's sketch book has been passed by every player, and returns back to its original owner, where it's time for the BIG REVEAL to see what happened to each secret word. Depending on how many vocabulary words you have, the degree of difficulty of this game may vary. 
I think my kiddos are going to have fun and be more motivated to practice their vocabulary this week!

You can download your copy of Vocabustrations to try in your classroom here for free!

Thanks for stopping by! I'd love to hear how you motivate your students in to practice and expand their vocabulary.

Have a warm weekend!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Five For Friday: I Survived Nine Weeks!

Happy Friday, friends!

I'm linking up again with Doodle Bugs Teaching for another Five for Friday! Here's five random things that our class has been working on this week:

Today is a special day for me, as it marks the end of the nine weeks for our school. I've officially made it through my first nine weeks of teaching - and I have loved every second!

As I reflect, I truly feel that I have exceeded my own personal expectations, and my students have done so as well. I can only hope that my students pass on the things that they are learning to others. All standards aside, I want great things for my students, and expect great things from them. I care more about the people they become than the scores on the tests they take. After all, isn't learning all about the journey, not the destination?  

This week we finished our Analyze-a-Character project! This was a great way to look into the physical traits and character traits of different characters. Students needed to take an indepth look on a specific character from a book that they are currently reading, and list the physical traits (outside) and character traits (inside) of their book character. Then, in order to practice citing their evidence, they had to pick one of the character traits and find text-based evidence that supported that specific trait. I'm so impressed with these - don't they look fabulous? 

I got the idea and rubric from Leslie at Life in Fifth Grade, so feel free to click the picture below for a free download! It's a fabulous resource and a great project for students to analyze character traits. 

In honor of MLK Jr. Day on Monday, we discussed some serious topics today. We read the story, March On by Christine King Farris and discussed the true impact Martin Luther King Jr. had on American culture.

Then, we discussed a deeper topic: did MLK have a lasting impact on our world, or are racism and segregation still present today? It was both impressive and somewhat troubling, the responses that students gave. We talked about how even though people are aware of the fact that appearance doesn't matter, people still judge others, whether intentionally or not, based on their physical traits. To prove the point, we looked at a current commercial which has caused much controversy. 

After talking about the public's negative reaction to this harmless Cheerios commercial, we agreed that for some reason, our society has strayed from MLK's dream for our country. We talked about the steps that we can take as individuals and the steps that all people can take to make a more equal world. We created our "Pathway to Change" (an idea I saw from A Year of Many Firsts).

Students took off their shoes, stinky feet and all, an traced both of their feet. They wrote ideas that could act as steps in the right direction on the road toward a more equal world. Take a look at some of their insightful ideas!

 Our goal is for others to "follow in our footsteps" on this pathway to change. This is the poster I have hanging on my motivation wall behind my desk, and I think it was the perfect advice to give as inspiration to write their steps. 

One of my goals this week was to create a focus board for my students for reading instruction. I forgot to take pictures of it, but I love that it has been interactive with their writing goals and reading objectives. Pictures will follow soon!

Today was the first meeting of the Lunch Bunch Book Club! My students LOVED it! We started reading The One and Only Ivan and let me tell you - it is a fabulous book. I started the group by modeling - we will read some of the book together, and then talk about our wonderings at certain points. They have to read several pages on their own for next week, and to hold them accountable for their reading, I am going to have one student lead the group discussion next week.  He or she will be responsible for discussing what they were assigned to read, reading more of the book, and leading the discussion about our wonderings at certain parts of the book. 

For those of you who haven't read the book, the story is written from the perspective of the gorilla, Ivan. I'll share with you a little Ivan humor, which, I think so far, this is their favorite part of the story: 

"Here in my domain I do not have much to do. You can only throw so many me-balls at humans before you get bored. 
A me-ball is made by rolling up dung until it's the size of a small apple, then letting it dry. I always keep a few on hand. 
For some reason, my visitors never seem to carry any." 
 Hehe, isn't he a silly gorilla? I am looking forward to sharing the various emotional portions of the book with my students as we continue our book club this month!
Have a wonderful weekend! 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Spark Student Motivation Saturday

Happy Saturday everyone!
I'm linking up with Joanne today for Spark Student Motivation!

One of the ongoing projects that we started in October is our 30 Book Challenge. This is a literacy-based project based off of the amazing (seriously, absolutely amazing) The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. Teachers, this is a MUST read for fabulous tips on motivating a passion for reading in your students.
To kick-off this project, we started by completing a Student Interest Survey on the first day. This helped me get a better feel of what students liked and disliked to read, as well as what outside interests might make great topics for reading. (For instance, several students might not like to read, or language arts might be their least favorite subject in school, but if I know that they love a certain sport, I will look for books about that topic to help stimulate their growth as readers.) I used a cute version of the survey, and looked at their responses to create the requirements for each genre.
Each student has their own Reading Response Notebook, where I gave them copies of documents to keep track of their reading, and helpful hints on each genre. In order to assess what my students are reading, I have five minute conferences with them during the week, and require that students write me a letter detailing their response to each book that they have read. 

Okay, okay; I know what you're thinking. Yes, thirty books is a TON for a fourth grader to read. Thirty books is a TON for anyone to read.  I'm reading thirty books alongside my students, and yes, it is a challenge. How do I keep my students motivated? Donalyn Miller says:

Since I started the project, I've added a daily 15 minutes (which turns into twenty or more) of pure reading time to our schedule. Let me tell you, even the students who are not necessarily avid readers, are asking me, "When will we get our 15 minute read today?" They have started to find good books that match their interests, and books that open new worlds for them. That in itself is an accomplishment in my mind.
Still, I have students who tell me that they want to read, but they just can't find the time. Admittedly, I fall into this scenario as well; I'm human and have other things on my to-do list. So I came up with a solution: This week I am presenting a Lunch Bunch Book Club!
I plan to introduce this to my class on Monday. One of my sweet girls is reading The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, and her enthusiasm that she shares with me every morning about the book made me realize that it would make a great book to read and discuss with other students, too! 

Instead of having my students purchase the book, or purchase multiple copies of the book on my own, I've contacted several libraries to borrow the books this week. I plan to do this as a first come first serve sort of group, that way it allows different students to participate for each book based on their level of interest. I'm going to come up with some questions for discussion for the first few meetings, and then I'll open it up for our meetings to be more student-led. I think this will be a wonderful way to motivate my students to read, and to explore other sorts of books. 

What ways do you motivate your students to read in your classroom? I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Monday Made It (A Little Late)

Happy Monday! (I started this post last night and fell asleep, oops!)

Today I'm linking up with Tara from Fourth Grade Frolics for her Monday Made It! I just am loving all these linky parties lately - such a great way to meet oh-so-many wonderful bloggers out there!

I'm pretty sure I could do this every Monday, since I'm always making something!

First on my list, is a little interactive grammar game. One of my fab professors in college taught me this game, and I've loved its simplicity ever since. All you really need for this game is a whiteboard (or SmartBoard if you're techy) and two flyswatters. Students split into two teams, and race to smack the correct word on the board with their flyswatter.

This works for literally any subject, and is one of those quick and easy games I have kept in my teacher toolbox. (It really comes in handy for subbing!) Truly, any age group (even adults) have fun with this easy game. Well, of course I had to take it to the next level and add some cuteness to it. Right now, we are learning about possessive nouns and how to correctly use apostrophes. Is it just me, or are these sorts of grammar concepts sometimes tricky to make an engaging lesson?  I decided that after I introduce how to use possessives, this would be an interactive way to check if students understand the concept.

All you do is cut out the little flies, laminate them, and tape to a whiteboard. I made two flies for each sentence - one with the correct use of the possessive and apostrophe, and one with the incorrect use. You could check it out at my TpT store (which is all freebies right now) and grab your copy! 

Second on my list is inspired from  Tara from Fourth Grade Frolics and the book Word Nerds. Once I saw her post, I did a little research and remembered I read that book, too! If you haven't read it yet, it provides so many creative ways of teaching vocabulary and getting students engaged in learning. If you don't have time to read (or buy) the book, you could check out this handy little summary from Mrs. Allen's Teaching Files or you could view the whole book here for free. 

One of the ways that they discuss getting students engaged in learning vocabulary is by using vocabulary lanyards. Each student wears a vocabulary word, synonym, or antonym on a lanyard. So to make my lanyards, I just took speech bubbles, printed on neon paper, cut them out, laminated them, and attached string. I plan on using dry erase markers for the vocabulary words each week. (This is my cheap alternative to lanyards!) Then, they can be used for many different activities! My three favorites: 

1. Counting Dude, Bragging Dude
Have students wear their vocabulary lanyards. Divide them into two groups - "Bragging" and "Counting." Then, have students meet in pairs with one of each and introduce themselves pretending that they are their word. The "Bragging Dude" must make a 7 word sentence using their word. The "Counting Dude" must determine if the sentence is long enough, and whether or not they used the word correctly. If they did, "Bragging Dude" gets to do a small quiet celebration, happy dance, etc. Then, they switch roles. 
2. Vocabulary Scramble
While students are wearing their lanyards, randomly call out "Scramble!" The kids have to get up and create a human concept mp with those wearing related words. So, all the synonyms and antonyms are grouped together with their main word. 

3. Chain Link Connection
While wearing their lanyards, choose one student to stand in front of the class, pronounce the vocabulary word, and say its meaning. The rest of the class thinks of a way to make a connection between their word and the first students's word. When some hands are raised, call on a student to explain their link. If it makes sense, they get to join the first student and link elbows. The next student can link their word with either the first word or the second word. Continue until all words are linked up! Challenge Bonus: Try to link up the first and last words!

What sort of interactive ways do you teach grammar and vocabulary?