Friday, October 7, 2016

Fall Mentor Text-Pumpkin Town!

Happy Fall!  Fall is my absolute favorite season!  I love everything about it....the cool Ohio temperature, the various fall smells that range from apple pie to pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks.  I love driving around to see the yellow, orange, and red leaves....and don't forget about all the PUMPKINS! There is nothing better than heading out to the pumpkin patch with your family and searching for the plumpest, most colorful pumpkins for the front porch.

Speaking of pumpkins....have you ever read the book about a small town that was overtaken by an abundance of pumpkins?  One of my favorite books in my fall collection is called Pumpkin Town! which is written by Katie McKy.  Pumpkin Town! is about a few brothers that accidentally scatter pumpkin seeds over a small town.  In turn, the small town is filled with pumpkins of all sizes.  The brothers secretly make their wrong right and is then rewarded in return.  I love that this book teaches about taking responsibility and having a strong worth ethic.  This is a great message for kids of all ages!

Pumpkin Town! can be used for so many activities when it comes to reading and writing. It is also perfect to discuss adjectives.  Especially comparative and superlative adjectives.  Before reading this book, I have found it helpful to review adjectives.  Review what an adjective is, what it does, and how it can enhance your writing.  There are so many awesome adjective activities out there.  My students created an adjective flip chart to add to their writer's notebooks.  This flip chart is a tool that the students can use any time during the year when they need to make their writing more descriptive.  The activity has helped the students compile a sea of adjectives that they will be able to refer back to throughout the year.  And of course, it's always helpful to watch quick videos to review adjectives (BrainPop Jr. and Flocabulary).  Here is an example of the flip chart I created for my students.

First, I read the book Pumpkin Town! to my students for enjoyment.  The students thought the story was really funny.  Of course, after the text, we discussed the message and a few character traits we
could give the characters in the text.  Next, I read through the text a second time with the purpose of students listening for adjectives.  Students would stop me when they would hear a describing word. My students came up with the idea of telling me where the adjective would go on our flip book.   So, I quickly made an anchor chart so that we could make a list throughout the story.  The students had their flip books out on their desks as well.  This was a good time for to me to observe who had an understanding for adjectives and who still needed more time.

Once the students found some adjectives in Pumpkin Town!, I thought it would be helpful to dig a little deeper into the language standard. A Common Core standard for third grade is for students to form and use comparative and superlative adjectives; and to choose between them depending on what is to be modified.  I have included a freebie of an adjective flip book that introduces and teaches comparative and superlative adjectives.  My students enjoyed completing this flip book.  We glued it down into our writer's notebooks so we can refer back to it when needed.  

I hope you enjoy this book as much as my students did!  Enter the giveaway below and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Let's Be Stress-Free! (or at least try

Wow, it has definitely been awhile since I last wrote a post.....In fact, it's been 3 months.  3 months?!?!  What have I been doing?   Did I go vacation all summer?  Was I ill?  Was I moving across the country?  The answer to all these questions  I really don't have much to say about what I have been doing the past 3 months.  I spent about a week out of town in August, but that's it.  So, why did I not write a post the past few months?  Honestly, I think it all has to do with one thing:  stress.

I ended the last school year exhausted.  It was a very, trying group of students last year.  Plus a lot of other factors took place last year that were pretty stressful.  I needed the summer desperately to relax, regroup, and re-energize.

But honestly, my summer wasn't exactly the most relaxing of summers.  My daughter ended up with head lice from a helmet while playing softball a few weeks into summer (I'm so embarrassed to even say she had it).  I learned that my 4 year old son is extremely allergic to all kinds of bug bites which resulted in some infections.  Plus, I went on a 10 hour car ride with my in-laws.  It wasn't what I would call a summer of re-energizing.  By the time mid-August came around, I was ready to get back into the grind of the school year.

Within a week into school, a rainstorm hit the town I teach in and my school was flooded.  Luckily, we were only out of school for 2 days while several teachers and community members helped clean up the damage.  And by the second week of school, I was diagnosed with shingles.  Yep.....shingles.  Seriously?!?!  I thought I was too young for this!  Have you ever had shingles?  This was my first (and hopefully my last) time with shingles.  So....P.A.I.N.F.U.L!

Now that I have recovered from my shingles,  I have thought a lot about how to lower the stress in my life.  The school year can be super hectic between lesson plans, grading, my children's homework, and after-school extracurricular activities.....and I didn't even mention making dinner, laundry, and maintaining a clean household.  So, what can I do to reduce my stress and keep my body healthy?  I have come up with a plan to reduce my stress in the classroom and hopefully these ideas can help you too.

 Tip 1: Learn to say no
I definitely have a very bad habit of saying yes to everyone and everything.  I am a people-pleaser. I want everyone around me to be happy and I will do whatever is asked of me in order to be helpful.  But there is a difference between being helpful and saying yes to everything.   People come to me at school for things because they know I will help and put their needs first.  I need to realize that I have a choice and that I can say no.  People aren't going to view me as lazy or selfish by saying no sometimes.

Tip 2:  Make time for myself
I don't know about you, but I don't feel like I find time to even sit or use the restroom during the school day.  I decided that I need to make time for myself during the school day.  Sounds crazy, right?!?  But for the past week, I have been spending my lunch break at school in my classroom with a book.  My feet are propped on a chair, my sandwich in one hand, while my book is in the other.  And no....not a "teacher book."  A book that is meant for enjoyment.

Tip 3:  Let things go
There are so many things in the education world that are out of our control. As much as we would like to change certain things in education for the better, we can't.  I've noticed that I tend to dwell and complain about the crazy things we encounter during a school year that are completely out of our control.  Some are not even worth wasting the energy on because they can't be changed.  I need to let things go.  Just keep doing my best, love my students, and let the things out of my control go.

Tip 4:  Drink a lot of water
Have you ever dismissed your kids at the end of the day and notice that you hardly took a drink of water all day long?  This has happened to me a lot, which then results in a horrible headache.  Last week, I bought myself a large, insulated traveling cup with a straw.  This past week, I drank 32 oz of water by the end of the day.  That is really good for me considering I was drinking hardly anything by the end of the day. PLUS, I didn't leave school with a headache!

Tip 5: Go to bed no matter what
Sleep is super important.  I love my sleep.  I have a son that doesn't sleep through the night due to insomnia so I need as much sleep as I can get.  I am setting a bedtime and sticking to it, no matter what.  If I am not done grading papers by 9:00, then oh well.

Tip 6: Smile more
A smile can go a long way.  A teacher in my building at the beginning of the year asked me what was wrong one day.  I told her nothing and was slightly confused by her question as we passed each other in the hallway.  She quickly said that I looked really sad or upset.  Honestly, nothing was wrong, but my facial expression said the opposite.  A smile can go a long way and I need to work on just smiling for no reason.  Smiling can make me happy and it can be pretty contagious.  So what am I waiting for?!?

I am 34 years old and just started my 11th year of teaching.  These tips seem simple and easy.  I'm sure all of you reading this probably already do these simple things.  I am way too young to be stressed out and suffering through the pain of shingles.  I am taking a vow to do my best this year and to keep myself happy, healthy, and stress-free.  I'm sure there will be times that I need a reminder of these simple one is perfect, but I sure will try!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Do You Have Your School Pants On?

The last Friday before summer break is one of my favorite days of the school year.  It is our annual talent show (LOVE IT!).  This is the day that the students in grades 3 through 6 can showcase their talents.  This usually includes a lot of singing, dancing, instrument playing, skits, etc.  It is so much fun to see the kids show off their cool talents....I just love this day!!!  This school year marked the 7th year of the talent show, and there has never been a teacher to participate in the talent show.


My team member, Melissa (who teaches math), my school counselor, Debbie,  and I decided to do a spin-off skit from Jimmy Fallon's Tight Pants skit with Will Ferrell and Christina Aguilera.  If you have never seen this skit, then you MUST watch this!!!  Let's take a moment to watch....

Hilarious, right?!?!  

So, Melissa, Debbie and I decided to do a spin-off skit and call it "School Pants."  Instead of wearing "tight pants", I wore "read pants", Melissa wore "math pants", and Debbie represented "test pants".  We took Jimmy Fallon's transcript/song lyrics and altered them to fit our "School Pants" version.  We shopped for matching shirts and labeled our "school pants" using letters cut from our school cricut machine.  We practiced and rehearsed on stage only a few times before the day of the show (and by practicing I actually mean giggling and goofing around).  Between our continuous laughing during rehearsal, stage fright, and the food poisoning I got the night before the show....I honestly didn't think we would be able to pull off the skit.  In the end, I think the talent show skit turned out well and we seemed to have been the hit of the show!  

I hope you enjoy our skit as much as we enjoyed performing for our students, staff, and families.  

Happy Summer!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Flip Flops, Beach Chairs, and Teaching With Mentor Texts

Happy Summer!!!  I don't know about you, but this was a very long school year and I am super excited to relax and recharge this summer.  And by recharge, I mean exploring new books and new ideas to bring into the classroom for the upcoming year.

One book I would like to share with you that I think is super fun for teaching students about perspective is called A Weed is a Seed by Ferida Wolff.  I came across this gem at Half Price Books and immediately knew it would be a keeper for my classroom.  After reading it once, my teacher brain kicked into high gear.  So many different lesson ideas were forming.  Theme.....creative writing.....cause & effect.....perspective......growth mindset.  I could go on and on.  As teachers, we know that we can do just about anything with a picture book.

A Weed is a Seed teaches children about what the word optimism means (which is such a powerful word to teach to any age).  This picture books is all about finding the silver linings that nature has to offer.  Ferida Wolff points out the down side perspective of such natural wonders (such as moths, sand, earthworms, and air) and then celebrates or finds the positive side of their virtues.  This is a great example of looking at things from various perspectives that could generate a thoughtful discussion among students.  This is a fairly easy picture book, but it will provide a lot of great lessons!

This book can be used for many different lessons, but I would start by using this text to teach students about perspective.  After giving the definition of the word perspective, I would create an t-chart chart on the whiteboard to complete while reading whole group with the students.  Record the two perspectives of each object, event, or activity.  The anchor chart will be a way for students to see the different perspectives visually rather than just orally.  With the students, discuss how the readers can see that the same object, event, or activity can be viewed in two different ways (and stressing that both ways are true).  It's even fun to hear the students generate a second perspective before turning the page to read on.
What's another perspective of dealing with the sand when you are at the beach?

The freebie is to be used after the whole-group read aloud.  It can be used in a work station or as a scoot activity.  The perspective-taking cards can even be used for a creative activity writing exercise.  If you are using this freebie in a work station or scoot activity,  print the cards on card stock, cut apart, and laminate.  This will ensure that the cards last longer.  Students will use the Perspective-Taking Activity Sheet to record two different, but true perspectives for each situation. I did not include an answer sheet because there really is no right or wrong answer.  The purpose for the activity is to get the students thinking about different sides or perspectives to every situation, object, event, or activity. Grab your freebie HERE!  This would be a great lesson before teaching growth mindset!!!

Before you head on, don't forget to enter our group giveaway.  It will be open until June 10th.  Good luck!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
To see what else is available in our link up, check out the list below!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Host A Garden Book Scoot!

Spring is in the AIR!!!  Spring brings warmer weather, testing, blooming flowers, testing, chirping birds, testing, flip flops......and did I mention testing??!!??.  I don't know about you, but I feel like the months of April and May consist of state assessments, district-mandated assessments, and classroom assessments.  It feels like it never ends.  What better way to kill the monotony during the day than to have a book scoot......a garden book scoot! 

House in Despair(right) Land after the house was torn down (left)
A few years ago, there was a house in despair less than a block away from my school.  The city owned the land and received a grant from the port authority to tear the house down.  The town mayor allowed the property to be turned into a community garden.  Everything at the garden has been done through grants that a local parent (by the way, she is one of my FAVORITE parents of all time!!!!) has applied for and received.  Also, all the labor that is done in the garden is completed by local neighbors.  The garden grows several different vegetables, fruit, and flowers.  A farmer's market is even held on the property several times throughout the spring, summer, and early fall.  Classroom teachers are also allowed to take the students to the garden for lessons, activities, and to just enjoy.  This lead to my idea of a garden book scoot.  

A sign was recently added to the entrance of the garden!
A book scoot is a great way to pique students' interest in reading.  It can also expose students to a variety of genres, authors, and topics.  For this book scoot, I pulled some spring and garden picture books from my public library and classroom collection.  My students brought in beach towels, sunglasses, and water bottles in order to read more comfortably in the garden.  We scattered the books around the garden and partnered-up with a friend.  I allowed about 5-10 minutes per picture book for the students to enjoy with a friend.  Unfortunately 5 minutes is not enough time for the students to enjoy the entire picture book....but we would be outside for a very long time if I were to give the students 10-15 minutes per book.  Scooting through the various books can at least pique a student's interest for future reading.   As you can see from the pictures below, the students had a blast.
My plan was to only be out in the garden for about 30 minutes.  I knew that wouldn't be enough time for the partners to scoot through all the books, but I knew this was an activity we could do again later in the week.  The students begged convinced me to extend the 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Not to mention, they were super bummed when I said it was time to go inside.  It was so great to see the students reading for enjoyment and have discussions with a friend about what was being read.

What do you think?  Is this something that you think would be meaningful and beneficial to continue with my students?  I'd love to hear about your ideas for a book scoot!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

UPDATE! Test Lab for New and Innovative School Furniture...What's Behind the Door?

As some of you may know from one of my previous posts, I was picked at the beginning of the year to receive new and innovative school furniture for my classroom from School Outfitters.  (Such an amazing opportunity!)  I am truly grateful and appreciative to be one of the lucky teachers in my building to experience this wonderful opportunity....and I have been getting anxious to see what my classroom will look like in the end.  If you are unfamiliar with what I am talking about, head over to my original post and read about this awesome opportunity that I have been a part of.


This past Friday was considered a Wavier Day at my school, which means students had the day off and teachers had professional development meetings all day long.  I was told last Wednesday that School Outfitters would be coming into my room on Friday to replace some of my old furniture with the new furniture.  Super exciting!  Unfortunately, I was unable to be present in my classroom during this transformation but that actually made things even more exciting!  It truly felt like Christmas when I walked into my room last Friday afternoon.

The Friday meetings for the Wavier Day felt like F.O.R.E.V.E.R long.  I was so anxious...excited....nervous....ecstatic... (I could go on and on) to see my classroom and to get everything in its right place.  I was excited for the new furniture and all the awesome possibilities that came with it, but overwhelmed at the fact that I now had to put my classroom back together.  I had to unpack all the items that I packed up the day before and be ready to teach for Monday morning.  Needless to say, I spent Saturday and Sunday working in my room (luckily I have a little seven year old that loves to help me in my classroom).

After moving the new furniture around several times, I finally settled on a set up.  I am still waiting on a few things items to arrive.  The company is designing a new teacher desk.  So for now, I have a table.  A few shelves still need to be replaced, my teacher storage area will have new shelves, and I am working out the kinks of the new lockers.  My wobble chairs and rockers will arrive soon as well.

BEFORE:  Library area
AFTER:  Library area with some new shelves and soft seating
BEFORE:  My teacher storage area
AFTER:  Storage area turned into my students' mailboxes and lockers
BEFORE:  Student coat room
AFTER:  Student coat room turned into teacher storage area
BEFORE:  Rectangle desks, large laptop cart, large teacher desk, old book shelves, mismatched chairs
AFTER:  Trapezoid desks, smaller teacher desk, smaller laptop cart, new bookshelves, soft seating
And one of my favorite items.....
How cool is this kidney-shape reading table with a whiteboard top?  This table is soooo much smaller than my old kidney shaped table.  I used to have to lay across the table to just read one-on-one with a student.  This one is more it's a whiteboard!  This will be perfect for my Words Their Way lessons!

Let me know what you think of all my new additions!  I will keep you informed and up-to-date with what happens next!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Kindness Without Words

Wednesdays are super important to my two children.  In my house, Wednesdays are called Library/Pizza Wednesdays.  Wednesday evenings are spent at the public library together as a family, followed by pizza for dinner at Dewey's.  My kids look forward to this evening every week.....and honestly, I do too.  It's a fun tradition that we started over the summer with my sister and two nieces.
Pizza after the library with my two nieces

This past Wednesday, I came across a picture book that I haven't read before and I really want to share it with you!!  It is called Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith.  I immediately fell in love with this book.  The pictures are beautiful.....and did I mention that it is a wordless picture book in a style that looks like a graphic novel?!?!  Awesome, right?!?! I love it!

Sidewalk Flowers is such a powerful story about a little girl showing small acts of kindness as she walks home from the grocery store with her preoccupied father.  Along their walk through the busy, black-and-white colored streets, the little girl pays close attention to the world around her while her father is distracted with his thoughts and cell phone.  While walking through the streets, the young girl collects colorful weeds and flowers that are springing up through the cracks in the sidewalk.  She begins to give her colorful bouquets away as an act of kindness to a dead bird, a sleeping/homeless man in the park, a neighbor dog, and lastly her mother and siblings once she gets home.  As you turn each page, the scenes start to fill with more and more color....and by the end of the book, the page is complete with beautiful watercolors.
Wordless picture books are perfect to use in the classroom because they have so many functions.  I especially love to use them when teaching my students how to make inferences.  Wouldn't this book be good to use when teaching character traits too??

There are so many wordless books that I love and this one is definitely going on my list to purchase.   Have you read this one before?