Friday, November 27, 2015

Reading in a Winter Wonderland

Hello and welcome to our second annual Winter Wonderland link up!  Last year, The Reading Crew sponsored a winter literacy hop, but we decided to run it a little different this time.  Instead of hopping with the potential of dead links, we decided on a closed link up.  What this means is that there is a "map" of the blogs at the bottom of each post, so you can hop through them all at once, visit some today and some later in the week, or see what best matches your literacy needs.  

On each blog, you will see a word in blue font.  This is the blog's mystery word.  Please be sure to record them because you will need each word for a five point entry in our raffle.  To help you keep track, you can print and use the recording form.

"Run, run, fast as you can!  You can't catch me!  I'm the........"

As a child, we learned to end this refrain by saying "..Gingerbread Man!"  Did you ever learn a different way to end the refrain when you were younger?  Luckily, our children now have the opportunity to read so many different versions of the gingerbread man.  Too many versions to read in a year!  I love teaching my third graders several ways to end this refrain.  And I am so excited to share one of my favorite gingerbread versions with you!
The Matzo Ball Boy is written by Lisa Shulman and illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger.  This 2005 fictional fairy tale is a Jewish version of the gingerbread boy.  On the morning of the Passover seder, a lonely grandmother, or bubbe, decides to make a delicious matzo ball boy for her soup.  Before long, the matzo ball boy runs away from the old woman, the schneider, the yenta and her children, the rabbi, and hungry fox with a dream to see the world.   

This familiar story of the gingerbread man is an updated twist which will leave your students wondering how this version will come to an end.  Plus, this book offers a way to introduce and teach your students about a Jewish holiday which is celebrated by many around the world. 
I look forward to December every single year.  It's not just because the holidays are around the corner.  It's because I spend the whole month exposing my third graders to different versions of the gingerbread man.  You won't imagine how many versions there are of the gingerbread man!!!  The Matzo Ball Boy by Lisa Shulman is definitely a must to have on-hand!

I start the month with reading the traditional version....the version that most people are familiar with, The Gingerbread Man by Eric A. Kimmel. Each student is given a story map graphic organizer at the beginning of the lesson to record the characters, setting, refrain, and ending.  Next, I like to read The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires, The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst, or The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett.  These versions are closely related to the original.  While reading the versions, the students continue to complete their story map while I fill in my giant story map gingerbread house.  Next, I like to model how to compare and contrast the two versions using the cookie jar venn diagram.   By modeling this activity, my students are more comfortable completing the venn diagram independently or with a partner when I read The Matzo Ball Boy.

After reading the more traditional versions, I like to introduce my students to versions that they have hopefully never read before.  Such versions include The Cajun Cornbread Boy by Dianne De Las Casas, The Runaway Rice Cake by Ying Chang Compestine, and The Musubi Man by Sandi Takayama...etc.  BUT one of my favorite gingerbread books is The Matzo Ball Boy by Lisa Shulman.  I have the same story map from above copied for the students where they can record the characters, setting, refrain, and ending.  This year, my students are comparing and contrasting the The Matzo Ball Boy (Jewish version) and The Musubi Man (Hawaiian version).  With a partner, the students use their story map to compare and contrast the two versions using the cookie jar venn diagram from above.  This lesson is not just for teaching compare and contrast.  Below is another freebie that help practice another important skill. 

Once the students have become familiar with The Matzo Ball Boy, they are ready to identify some cause and effect relationships.  Teaching cause and effect has never been my favorite skill in third grade to teach....(never!)  But it must be done!  By December, I have already exposed the students to cause and effect, so this activity is more of a review to practice the skill.    Below is the cause and effect freebie! 

Once the students are familiar with the story, this cause and effect activity freebie can be a great way to practice the skill.  I have done this activity two different ways.  I have had the students complete the cause and effect t-chart while I am reading, in partners, or as a whole group.  I have also made a few different versions, depending on the level of your students.  On the first two pages, the students only find the cause of each effect.  In the second version, the students are to find the cause and effect.  The third version has the students draw a line (match-up) the correct cause to the effect.
To extend on this lesson, students can continue reading more versions of the gingerbread man.  The list keeps growing every year!  I also have my students complete a gingerbread persuasive writing piece.  The students convince the reader (Mr. Fox) that they are not a gingerbread man and do not want to be eaten.  They have to convince Mr. Fox they are something other than a cookie.  Plus, the students get to decorate their gingerbread man to match their writing.  

Before you go, I will remind you that my mystery word is gingerbread. You can enter it onto your sheet or into the rafflecopter below. Good luck to you, and I hope you'll come back soon.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 9, 2015

Integrating Science, Technology, and Writing Can Be Fun!

I need to start off by saying that it has been W.A.Y. T.O.O long since I have written a post.  I entered the blogging world this past summer and fell in love.  But once school do you even find the time?!?!?!  I'll figure out how to balance it all eventually......

So, I want to share a project that my third graders have been working on for the past few weeks.  First of all, my teammate, Melissa, teaches math, science, and social studies.  I teach reading and writing.  The past two weeks, we decided to co-teach while teaching the students animal adaptations and informative/explanatory writing.  Before I get into the details, here is what our finished project looks like!
Hallway Display....just in time for Parent-Teacher Conferences

Giant pangolin hair, beaver teeth, and eastern gray kangaroo feet.

Reindeer hair, beaver teeth, mountain goat feet
Super cute....right?!?!

Here's what we did......

First, my teammate, Melissa, spent several science classes teaching the students about animal adaptations.  By the end of her teaching, the students understood that animals have life cycles that are part of their adaptations for survival in their natural environments.  During my writing classes, I was teaching the students about informative writing, how to take notes, and the editing process. Once the students were ready Melissa and I combined classes and began the project.  We started with the objectives.
Next, Melissa and I read "What If You Had Animal Teeth!?, What If You Had Animal Hair!?, and What If You Had Animal Feet!? by Sandra Markle.  We spent a class period on each book.  Have you ever read these books?  So fun!  And the author is coming out with a new book in January called What If You Had Animal Ears!?

Next, we told the students about the writing assignment/project.  The students were to pick animal teeth, hair, and feet from the three books that were read aloud.  Using their chromebooks and certain resources online, the students took notes about the specific body parts that they chose.  Their notes had to include how each body part will help him or her survive in an environment.  It took a few days for the students to conduct their research, but it was amazing how well they did with finding their information!  

After conferencing with individual students to check their research, the students were given a graphic organizer to help organize their thoughts.  They had to write how the specific body part will help them adapt and survive in an environment.   It took several days to conference with students, complete rough drafts, peer-edit, and write final copies.......(very exhausting....) After all the hard work, the students were ready to put it all together.  We took pictures of each student and printed them out on 8 1/2 by 11 paper.  Prior to starting the project, I had Mr. Smith draw a template for all the teeth, hair, and feet.  Thank goodness for Mr. Smith and his artistic abilities!  Here is one last one to share....

Zebra hair, elephant tusks, and green basilisk lizard
This is a project that Melissa and I will complete next year with our third graders....and we will definitely be using the fourth book that comes out in January ("What If You Had Animal Ears!?).  Stop by next year and check out what my upcoming students come up with! 

Tell me about a project where you have integrated several subjects...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

September Currently

Listening:  It has been HOT and dry here in Ohio.  So, tonight, it has been so nice to sit and listen to the thunderstorm outside.  I love to hear the rain hitting the roof and the booms of thunder.  I love it.

Loving:  It's Labor Day weekend which means no school on Monday.  I've only been in school for two weeks and I am already in need of a three day weekend.  I am looking forward to a pool party with friends tomorrow and a relaxing weekend with my husband and two children.

Thinking:  I started reading Wonder by Raquel J. Palacio.  I think I should go cuddle up in bed, listen to the thunder, and read this wonderful book.

Wanting:  My son is a little over 3 1/2 years old.  He has never really slept through the night.  After fighting with many different doctors, my son had a sleep study last December and found out he has sleep apnea.  We had his tonsils and adenoids removed in February.  He FINALLY started sleeping through the night in March.  Unfortunately, he has now hit a stage of being afraid of everything.  So, we are back to not sleeping through the night. zzzzzzzzzz

Needing:  I've had glasses since I was in second grade.  I am sick of glasses and I am sick of contacts.  By the end of the day, my eyes are done.

Goals:  My husband and I have been working on potty training with my son since June.  Not going well.  I need it to go well.  He will be 4 in November!  I also need and want to wash the outside of the living room and kitchen windows.  Lastly, I need to relax.  I've been in school for two weeks.  My school does not have air it has felt like 1,000 degrees.  I am worn out.  I need to relax (which is always a little difficult with two children at home).

Want to share what you are currently up to?!  Head over to Oh' Boy 4th Grade to link up!!!

Friday, September 4, 2015

September-My Favorite Things Linky

School has been back in session for two weeks and two days.  With all the beginning of the year assessments, I do not feel like I have a solid routine yet.  But I do feel like I had done some great lessons with my 3rd graders.  I am linking up with Teaching Trio and sharing my 3 favorite successful lessons that I have done in the past two weeks.  

1.  Within the first few days of school, I got the feeling that several, almost all, of my students needed to change their mindset about a few things.  We do a lot of "getting to know you", team building activities, and reading/math interest surveys the first few days of school.  These activities are pretty revealing about students' attitudes, likes, and dislikes.  I knew afterwards that I needed to do a few lessons on growth vs. fixed mindset.  I found a great WONDERFUL PowerPoint on TPT that made this lesson! Thank you Eve Coates!  The lesson ROCKED!  I wrote about the lesson here a few days ago.  There are a few different bloggers that I had to thank in that post for their amazing ideas.  It was such a success.

2.  Another lesson that went well was the day I taught my students how to pick out good-fit books for independent reading.  I think using concrete representation (in this case it was shoes) can really foster deeper understanding of skills for students.   The lesson started with a large brown paper bag filled with different shoes from my closet.  I talked about how we pick out our shoes every day and how our shoes have a purpose (just like when we pick out books to read).  Check out the post here.

3.  My weakness in life is Oreos....They are dangerous.  I can eat the whole bag in one sitting.  It really is a sickness.  So, needless to say, when I saw this activity on Pinterest, I had to do it.  Turns out, the lesson was a great way for students to see the importance of reading a text more than once.  I have not written a blog post about it yet, but here is where I found it on Pinterest.

What are your favorites this month? 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

September's Pinterest Pick 3 Linky

September is here!  Yay!  My favorite season is almost upon us....fall!

I am linking up with Pawsitively Teaching and Inspired Owl's Corner for September's Pick 3 Pinterest Pins!  Here are a few Pinterest ideas that I will be using in September with my students.  I hope they will be helpful to you and your classroom

The first pin is from Who's Who and Who's New.  The post is called Close Reading with Oreos.

Picture from original post
Picture from original post
 I love this lesson....and it's not just the fact that I get to eat two Oreo cookies (they are definitely my weakness!).  This lesson is great for showing students the importance of reading things more than once.  First, the teacher gives the students an Oreo.  The teacher explains to the students that they must quickly eat their Oreo so that class can get started.  Once the students finish their Oreo, the students are asked to write on a post-it what they just ate.  Super easy, right?  Next, the students are handed another Oreo and are invited to sit on the carpet.  The students spend time touching and smelling the cookie.  Next, they close their eyes and take small bites, savoring the taste.  Afterwards, the teacher adds their descriptions and thoughts about the Oreo to an anchor chart.  The purpose of the lesson is to get students to understand the importance of reading a text more than once.  Just look at the difference between the first anchor chart after eating the first cookie to the second anchor chart after eating the second cookie.  Such a powerful lesson!

The second Pinterest pin I want to share is mostly for you (the teacher).  The post is from Emily at Education to The Core.  The post is titled, When Teachers Compete with Other Teachers.

I love this post because it is a great reminder that we are here to do our best and teach our kids. That's it.  We did not become teachers to see if we could be better than the teacher in the room across the hall from us. There are so many teachers out there that try to out-do or out-shine others.    Do you ever feel like another teacher is trying to compete with you or trying to compete to be the best?  This post gives great tips on how to rise above and be the best teacher you can be.  Some of these tips you may already know, but they are such a great reminder.  We need to take our energy and direct it towards what really matters....and that's our students!

My third Pinterest pin is from Angela at the Cornerstone for Teachers.
I don't know about you, but I am sick and tired of sending home reading logs.  They are boring and its always a struggle to even get my students to bring the logs back to school.  I really want to start my year off right and use an authentic way of making sure my students are held accountable for reading at home.  This post gives 10 great ways to hold your students accountable and foster a love for reading at home.  I think I will be using her idea #1 and replace my reading logs with book journals.

Thanks so much for stopping by.  Let me know if these three pins will be of any help to you and your students!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Did I-PICK the Correct Shoes today?

I love beginning of the year activities!  Last week, I did a lesson about how to choose a "Good-Fit" book.  If you've read any of my summer posts, you've probably noticed that I could not stop reading during June, July, and August!  I read books for pleasure, picture books, young adult chapter books, and a lot of professional development books.  A week did not go by where I wasn't spending a ton at Half Price Books or relaxing at the library with my kids.

One of the books I read was called The Daily 5 Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  I am not 100% implementing this in my classroom yet, but I am taking small steps.

Inside the book, the 2 Sisters give an excellent lesson on how to teach your students to choose "good-fit" books (I-PICK).  The lesson includes two of my favorite (anyone else have a shoe-buying problem?!) and a concrete example.  Almost all my lessons I present to my students have some kind of concrete representation or example.  Below is the anchor chart that I prepared a head of time, but didn't show the students until the end of the lesson.

Class started with a large brown bag on one of my tables.  As soon as class started, I had so many students interested in what was inside.  I told the students that I had such a dilemma this morning, and that I couldn't figure out what to wear to school.  Of course, some of my girly-girls jumped in and had comments about how that happens to them all the time too!  So I told my class that I brought in a bunch of my shoes because I just couldn't decide what was going to look right.  Naturally, everyone wanted to see the shoes inside the bag.  

First, I laid all the shoes out and said out loud what each shoe was called.   I had a pair of brown ballet flats, Old Navy flip flops, Nike gym shoes, Nike soccer cleats (these were actually my 3 year old's cleats), Columbia work boots, and a pair of black high heels.  After laying the shoes out,  I had to ask myself, "What might my purpose be today?  Why might I put on a certain pair of shoes?"  All the students jumped in and said I was going to school today to teach.

Next, I had my students tell me the purpose of each shoe that I brought.  They did a great job.  Here are some of the things they said: The brown ballet flat is for a casual to dressy occasion. They said it can be worn with a skirt or with capris.  The Old Navy flip flops are usually worn at the beach or the pool.  Nike gym shoes are for exercising, walking, running, jogging, wearing to the gym, or for going to Kings Island.  Nike soccer cleats are to be worn when playing soccer.  Plus, my students did mention that I would not be comfortable in the shoes because they were too small.  The Columbia work boots are for shoveling the snow in the winter.  The black high heels are for weddings, fancy dresses, funerals, and special occasions.  

After we talked about the purpose of each shoe, I said that I also have to think about which shoe I am interested in wearing.  I have my students look at the shoes they are wearing at the moment.  I asked them how they decided what shoe to wear this morning.  (Luckily, my students had gym class today, so they all knew to say that they had to wear shoes appropriate for gym class).  

Once we were finished talking about the purpose and interest of our shoes, I had my students elbow talk with their friend about how picking out shoes for the day is similar to picking out a book to read.  Wow....I heard a few weird answers, but I also heard a lot of great thinking.  Some of the students were able to make the connection between the two.  This is when I decided to pull out the "I-PICK Good-Fit Books" anchor chart.  

I discussed each letter with the students.  I also had an anchor chart for the students to glue into their reader's notebooks under the "mini lesson" tab.  Next, I let my students explore my library and practice picking out "Good-Fit" books.  I think the students were able to walk away from the lesson having a good idea of how to pick out a book that is a "good-fit."

How do you teach your students to pick out books to read?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Let's Help Our Brains Grow!

Have you ever had one of those days where the students are about to walk into school to start the day and you completely change your lesson plans?  Today was one of those days......
Today was the fifth day of school.  Being the planner that I am, I completed my weekly lesson plans last week and was all prepared for the day.  At least, I thought I was prepared.  While driving into work, I thought to myself that I need to do something fast about changing some of my students' mindsets.....

Yesterday, the students and I discussed our interests and I had my students complete a Reading Interest Survey.  This survey was going to give me insight into their reading habits, what they like and don't like to read.  I took the surveys home Monday night and after reading through them, I felt sad.  Unfortunately, it was getting late and my three year old was not sleeping, so I had to set the surveys aside.  But once I woke up, I couldn't stop thinking about the surveys and the lack of interest my new third graders have for reading.  In fact, some of them stated that they hate reading, they can't read, and don't want to read. their reading teacher, this broke my heart.

So, while sitting in traffic this morning, I realized something must change.  I want to get them to change their mindset about reading (plus develop the habit of changing their mindset).  I know that I can't make every student love reading.  We all have different interests, but I at least I want my students to change their mindset and be open to reading.  

Well, at 7:30 am (40 minutes before going outside for morning duty) I decided to completely change my lesson plans.  Everything I had written down and prepared for the day was a waste.  I wanted my reading class today to be geared toward growth vs. fixed mindset (I ended up using the terms open vs. closed mindset with my third graders).  Quickly, I jumped on Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and google.  I found some amazing ideas.  

Pinterest lead me to an excellent Growth vs. Fixed Mindset post by Judy from It's Raining Resources!  Judy talked about the same struggles I am having right now with my third graders.  Her post also lead me to an AMAZING and interactive  PowerPoint presentation created by Eve Coates on Teachers Pay Teachers.    It is a MUST buy!  My students loved it!  BUT--before I showed the PowerPoint, I displayed a pretty challenging riddle on the board.  I told the students there was no talking, no asking questions, no sounds.  They must figure out the riddle within three minutes.  I tried everything in my power to keep a straight face.  Some of my students looked scared....upset....challenged...and some just put their pencils down and didn't even attempt to try and solve it.  (btw way, I quickly found this riddle online year, I think I would do something different:  "What is something that happens once a minute, twice a week, and once a year?").  After the three minutes, I asked the students how they felt.  Most of their reactions were just as I thought they would be....."I give up."  

So, this lead me into the PowerPoint.  It really helped them see that you are not born smart.  You become smart by doing challenging things.  It also showed that harder things can actually be more fun!  Plus making mistakes is good because they help us learn and grow.  

It's Raining Resources!
After the PowerPoint, I took Judy's idea from It's Raining Resources! and made an anchor chart with the students.  The chart was a great way for students to hear what a closed and open mindset sounds like.   I had chart paper on the board with the pictures to represent open vs. closed.  The picture below is from Judy's post.  Creating the anchor chart lead to so many great discussions with my students.

Next, I pulled out one of my favorite picture books, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.  If you don't have this book, you need to buy it.  I love  LOVE this book.  This is a perfect example of what it looks like to change your mindset.  The unnamed girl in this book wants to make the most magnificent thing, but she keeps failing repeatedly.  Eventually, the girl gets so mad and quits.  With the help of her furry best friend, the little girl ends up changing her mindset and is successful in the end.  Such a great book to end the class period.
Don't anchor chart would have been prettier if I planned further in advance! :)

Phew....I loved this day.  It started off rocky because I felt like I was running around with my head cut off at 7:30 this morning.  But once I had a plan and started teaching, it went great.  I left the building today thinking that my students truly understood the difference between an open and closed mindset.  I am still going to revisit, reteach, and add to my lesson today.  But I can definitely say that  I think I will sleep great tonight!!

Tell me about your growth vs. fixed mindset ideas!!!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A New Way to Communicate


I wanted to write this post about something new that I came across.  My school recently reduced the number of copy machines in our building.  So, the copy machine that was located right next to my classroom is now an empty space (tear).  This means that I need to cut back on things that I need copied because I cannot run down four flights of stairs to the nearest copy machine in the middle of teaching.  So, one thing I know I can cut back on (plus I want to cut back on these) is the weekly newsletters.  For one, I feel like weekly newsletters can be a waste of paper because I have no idea if my parents actually read it.

Last week was our first week of school.  So, I sent home a communication survey (click here to read my blog from the summer where I attached the google doc of my communication survey) to my parents asking them how they would like to communicate (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Remind101, or paper newsletter).  Needless to say, my surveys came back with a variety of choices.  I decided to sit down and do some research on the Internet.  I read different blogs, googled a few things, and I talked to some of my teacher friends.  After talking to Em at Curious Firsties, she mentioned something that her daughter's teacher uses called Class Messenger.

Have you ever heard of Class Messenger???  OMG, I love it!  Class Messenger was created to make sure teachers, parents, and students are all on the same page.  This program creates a constant stream of private communication specific to the needs of your class, students, and parents.  Instead of spending a lot of time (possibly hours) connecting via Twitter, Facebook, email, text messaging, a class blog, or even a paper newsletter, class messenger is your one-stop shop for all of these things.  It is just as easy as text messaging, but definitely more private. Teachers can write general comments, assign homework, write reminders, create order forms & surveys, develop group meetings, make volunteer forms, and list donations that are needed.

There are many different ways that teachers and parents can access the service from class messenger.  The Browser version can be accessed by any computer, laptop, or mobile device.  There is also an iOS application that can be used on any mobile device from Apple (iPhone, iPod, or iPad).  Lastly, there is an Android application that can be used on a wide range of Android devices that include Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, Google Nexus, HTC One Mini, etc.

Are you thinking, "How is that different from Remind(101)?"  Great question! I have the answers.  Below are a few ways that sets Class Messenger apart from Remind:

Doesn't it sound awesome?  If you still aren't sure, check out this Prezi that I found on Class Messenger's website.  It's pretty informative.  I will be sending home the sign up information tomorrow with my students to get my parents enrolled in Class Messenger.  I am excited to let you know how it all plays out.

Tell me what works for do you communicate with your parents?