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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Too easy....Too Hard......Just Right

Happy Sunday everybody! I hope that my East Coast buddies are staying safe with Sandy looming. Thinking of you all! We are enjoying a lazy fall morning out here in California. I wanted to take a minute to share what's been going on during reading time in 5th grade.

So it's no secret that my kiddos were having some issues during read to self. We were not exactly reading during our school wide reading time...even though we all had our books out. A lot of my kids were just hanging out with an open book...not so productive. It was seriously driving me CRAZY!

 I felt like I was loosing precious minutes of instructional time while my kids did their best to fake read. It was turning into a huge problem for me and it turned out to have a two part solution.

First,  I taught my kiddos the difference between fake readers and real readers. I blogged about that part of the solution HERE.

The other part of the solution was reteaching picking the right book. I had gone over the idea at the beginning of the year but had never really taught a lesson on the whole concept so I decided to start from scratch.

I scoured blogland and usual first line of defense...and came up with this lesson:

I started by telling them I picked out a brand new book for read aloud and that I was really excited about it. I pulled out The Life of Benjamin Banneker  from my bag and started reading aloud with my usual enthusiasm  Then I said, "Turn to your neighbor and predict what will happen next". *Crickets* A couple of kids tried to come up with something but most just looked at me like I was crazy. Which was exactly what I wanted!

I said, "You all are supposed to be making predictions. What seems  to be the problem?" One of my superstars replied, "Well I really tried to listen but some of the words were really hard and I really couldn't understand the plot. I think that's a high school book or something."

Too which I quickly replied, "Okay, so your telling me this book is too difficult because the words are too hard and you didn't quite understand what was going on. That's okay because I picked up a couple of other books while I was at the bookstore."

Then I pulled out Don't, Danny, Don't! I read three pages and then asked them to predict. They laughed and said "Of course we know what is going to happen. That's a baby book!"

Just before I pulled out the final book I heard one of my students tell her neighbor, "This is just like Goldie Locks and the Three Bears. We Can't find the right book." That's when I knew the lesson was going in the right direction. :)

Finally a pulled out James and the Giant Peach. I read 3 pages in my best read aloud voice. My kiddos were hooked! I asked them to predict with their neighbor. There were insightful murmurs all over the room.

I was smiling. My kids were smiling. All was right in the world.

Then we had a quick discussion on why James and the Giant Peach was an appropriate book and why the others were too easy or too difficult for us.

We used that info and created this anchor chart:

(Sorry it's so out of focus!) 

I was so happy that they were able to help me fill out the chart...we even ran out of room on the chart because they had SO many ideas.

At the end of the period, the kids took turns book shopping in the classroom library. We placed the anchor chart in the library so that they were able to refer to it as they shopped. Overall, I feel like the lesson went very well and they really understood and applied the information. I just love when that happens! :)

What lessons went well for you this week? I'd love to hear about them! Leave me a comment below. :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fun Friday

I was ready with a fun Friday post when I came across this fun little linky from Teaching in Fourth. We all need a little extra fun on Fridays so I am linking up with Kelly and you should, too! :) Check out the fun graphic she created for the party and the end of this post.
Since it's Friday I thought I'd share some of the activities we do in my room when we need a little extra fun. This week we had assessments, a fire drill, earthquake drill and vision screening. Which made for some long days and a couple of awkward periods when we had 10 minutes before being pulled for vision screenings or 15 minutes before lunch after a morning FULL of testing. These are the times I need to pull some fun tricks out of my teacher hat. Here are a few we had fun with this week:
                                                     Read Aloud with a Twist 
My kids love a good read aloud but sometimes they have a hard time staying focused. Whenever we are going to do an extra long read aloud I pass out a teeny tiny piece of play-doh for each student. They quietly play with the clay and listen. It is amazing how it improves their concentration!

Responsive Classroom Games 
I love the games that are part of the Morning Meetings in Responsive Classrooms. These are great games for the morning but are also fun during those awkward in between team. My kids LOVE "Just Like Me". Click here to find the link to that and a couple of other Games. 

Word Games 
My kids LOVE word games. They're great because not only are they fun, they help students look at words in a new way. These are my kids current favorites: 
Words Within Words FREEBIE   Set of 5 Halloween themed word building sheets.

<Click on the images to get your own copies> 

And now to the linky

Here are the links:
Super cute Disney Princess aprons 
 Covered in Glitter and Glue Go check her out!

I hope you all have a wonderful & restful weekend! 
Now go link up with Kelly! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tell Me Something Good

I am linking up with Jennifer over at Rowdy in First grade for a little bit of positive thinking. These last few weeks have been completely a  little crazy and today was no exception, so I think Jennifer's linky is perfect way to end this busy day. 

Something Good at School: 
- We've made a ton of progress in math! I love, love, love Stephanie's Calendar Math and I've already seen so many benefits from using her product. Check it out! You won't be disappointed. 

 -My kiddos are really getting into Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'dell and I feel like they are learning a ton of new stuff as they read. 
               Product Image
I was a little nervous about it because it is much more complex than the other novels we've read so far this year.

- My first formal observation went well. I HATE being observed. I can never sleep the night before and I get way too nervous during the lesson but things went well and now I am DONE... until next semester. Whew! 

Something Good at Home: 

-I spent the entire weekend in my hometown doing absolutely nothing except soaking in some family time. Such an amazing with my momma, dinner at my grandama's, lunch with my cousin. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! :) 

-My boyfriend's mom made me the most AMAZING pumpkin chocolate chip bread. I've been looking forward to having it for dessert ALL day long. It's the little things that make me happy!  

Take a minute to link up! I can't wait to read about the good things going on in blogland. :) 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Real Readers

Our entire school begins the day with read to self. It can be powerful to have the whole school can also be a huge waste of time if the kiddos aren't really reading. My students started off the year doing a great job with read to self but slowly their attention started to drift. My classroom looked like it was full of readers but if you looked closely with teacher eyes, you could see a whole lotta fakers, too!

I was trying to figure out what to do to combat this when I came across these amazing pins....

<Click on the images to go to the original site> 

Love this chart from Ginger over at Ginger Snaps. 

Are your students real readers or are they fakers

I taught a quick lesson on the difference between real readers and fake readers. Then we barinstormed as a class and came up with a chart (Opps! I forgot to take a picture of the chart that we came up with)

Next, I printed out some Real Reader tickets. Of course I forgot to take pictures of those and the the doc is on my computer at school but they weren't anything fancy. I did fancy them up a bit by printing the Real Reader tickets on my favorite astrobrights paper.

When I saw my kiddos practicing the traits of Real Readers, I rewarded them with a little ticket. We put the tickets in a basket and did a drawing at the end of the week. I picked 5 tickets and the winners were able to choose a brand new book.

Since we all want to walk away with a little somethin' somethin', I also created these cute little bookmarks as door prizes for ALL of the students who had earned a Real Reader ticket during the week. Hopefully these little bookmarks will also serve as a little reminder to the kiddos, too!    
We used this system for two weeks. This is our first week without using the tickets and I still see improved reading habits! Here's to hoping these real readers are here to stay!

What do you do to teach/improve reading habits?

Monday, October 15, 2012

I've been boo'd!

Love this fun little linky that has been going around. Reminds me of a Secret Santa! :) 

I was boo'd by Mrs. Young over at Young Daze in 5th Grade. Head on over and check her blog out! 

I am a little fuzzy on the rules for this linky but I know it has something to do with sharing some October books and spreading the Boo'd love!

So here it goes....

Fave Halloween Books: 

I know this ones been passed around for awhile but my kiddos love it every time! 

The current favorite in our class. 

Now, let the BOOING begin! 

I am booing Kim over at Literacy Sundae. I just stumbled upon her blog...actually she stumbled upon mine and then I stumbled back onto hers. Anyway, it is ADORABLE and she has lots of great ideas too! Go visit! 

Literacy Sundae

I am also booing Sara at Miss V's Busy Bees.  Another adorable bloggy-blog. And she's always keeping me up to date on all the blog happenings. 

 Miss V’s Busy Bees

And  last, but certainly not least, Michelle from Just Wild About Teaching. Love her fun ideas. Makes me wanna teach the littles! :) 
My Photo

Now get busy and start BOOING!  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pintrest & a Halloween Freebie

Last week was all kinds of crazy. Assessments.  Staff meetings. Professional development. Enough said.

This week looks super busy too, so I am procrastinating preparing the best way I know how.

 I started by reorganizing my pintrest boards. If you don't already follow me click HERE.

I am still so obsessed with pintrest ... the novelty hasn't worn off for me. Pretty much 80% of my pins are school related (the other 20% are clothes I can't afford or food I shouldn't eat) so I promise there are lots of lots of good ideas on these boards! I seriously don't know how I lesson planned before pintrest! :)

My kiddos start assessments this week which means by lunchtime they are in need of a serious brain break.

So I  came up with this little pack:
It comes with 5 Halloween/Fall word activities. You can download it for free HERE.
Words within Words has quickly become one of my kiddos fave games. You know the game where you write out a long word (i.e. environment) and then they look for smaller words that they can make with the letters in the big word (i.e. mint, iron, never).

 Anyway, I usually just write a word on the whiteboard and they find the smaller words on a piece of scratch paper but I decided to fancy it up a bit this week. Each sheet also has adorable clipart from my new fave My Cute Graphics. Love the site and I am so thankful it is F-R-E-E. If you haven't already, go check it out! :)

I am also planning a little somethin' somethin' since I just reached  50 followers so stay tuned...although with the crazy week ahead, there are no promises that it will be up anytime soon! Such is the life of a teacher during assessment time!  Oh well!

What do you all have planned for the week ahead?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Is Youtube blocked at your School???

Yesterday, I posted about using Edmodo, youtube and other online resources to help get students excited about reading. (You can read that bog post HERE.)  Marcia from Learning is Bliss left me a comment that reminded me that many districts block youtube.

 Did you konw that there is a way to convert youtube videos to Mp4's and save them on your computer or save them on a flash drive?!?!?! Well, there is! I learned about it at the same conference that introduced me to Edmodo. (Obviously it was a pretty AMAZING conference:) ) .

There is an awesome, FREE website called Keep Vid. I am including a picture tutorial below but basically you paste the youtube URL into the Keep Vid website and then it converts it into an MP4 file. It literally takes just a few minutes and then you are able to keep the video. (Just like the name implies!) The only draw back is that there are tons of those tricky ads that look legit parts of the website but are actually just advertisements. Don't click on the ads. Use the tutorial below.

Keep vid will give you a couple of different options to save the file. I have always save mine as an MP4. Works every time! 

I am actually lucky, in that youtube is not blocked at my school, but I still use keep vid for a couple of reasons. Our internet can be really slow at school so this bypasses that whole problem of the video pausing or having to reload the page.  Plus I don't have to worry about the ad or comments on youtube. Once you've saved your video as an MP4 you can also easily use it with power point or other programs. 

Anyway, this little website has come in handy for me. I hope that it is useful to you as well! 

Now I am off to grade papers with one of my very best friends at Strabuck's...chances are we will get very little done but oh well! A little friend time is good for this girls soul.  

Have a wonderful weekend! :) 

PS I officially hit 50 followers. So excited! :) 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Book Clubs & Edmodo

Hi all! Happy Saturday!

I wanted to share s fun little resource that kids L-O-V-E. It's called Edmodo. Have you heard of it????

I actually first heard about Edmodo at a technology conference over the summer. It is basically like Facebook but can be used for communicating with your students online. If you check out the image below you can REALLY see the similarities to fb!

It is a secure site, password protected and nobody else sees the info posted so there is a lot less to worry about than some other sites. To be honest, I don't remember all of the security details because the conference was in July but I do know that it was approved for our school and we are kinda strict about all that stuff!

Anyway, our 7th grade teachers have been using Edmodo with great success. They even post assignments online and the students turn them in via Edmodo. Since it's just like Facebook, you can use it to facilitate peer to peer discussions as well....

Which brings me to the book club. Our teeny tiny school is filled with some reluctant readers. We are using this fun Edmodo site to get them excited about reading. The 6th grade teacher and myself are hosting an all girls book club for 6th, 7th and 8th graders.

The sixth grade teacher picked our first book Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker. It tells the story of a 12-year-old girl during Hurricane Katrina. Our shipment hasn't come in yet, but I really can't wait to start reading it next week!

And the best part: the girls are super excited, too! We weren't sure how much interest this book club would generate since it requires the girls to do a lot of extra reading outside of school. They also have to post and discuss each chapter in addition to their normal nightly homework for school but so far the response has been great! 

We've already had more than half of the middle school girls at our school join our  group on Edmodo. They've  all commented on the authors introduction which was posted on our Edmodo page and watched a video clip from youtube.

The girls are already using strategies (predicting, building their schema), searching out their own info (several have commented on googling the events of Hurricane Katrina) and chit chatting about the books with their peers. 

I can't wait to see where it goes from here! I am all for any tool that has our students excited about  reading and discussing books --even on this three day weekend! Love, love, love! 

Have you used Edmodo? What are some other online resources to get kids involved? Please share! I'd love to know more! 

PS I am sooo close to 50 followers! To all of my followers:thank you, thank you, thank you! I am loving the blog world! If you don't already follow my blog I would love it if you would! :) 

Have a great weekend! 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Happy October and a Currently!

Happy October everybody! Here in California our heat wave seems to be dying down a bit and I am actually starting to feel a little fall chill in the air. I am planning on soaking in as many RELAXING fall activities as possible this weekend. It's been a long week ya'll.

On to the currently...
My kiddos are loving this book (especially my boys!). It is sometimes hard to find holiday books that aren't too young for my 5th graders. This one works well for the older set and  I am all for any book that gets a couple of wiggly, reluctant readers engaged and reading! :) 

I am pretty sure most everything else on my currently is fairly self-explanatory. As I said before it has been a looonnngg week so I am enjoying my Wednesday night and vegging out to the fullest extent as I catch up on my favorite shows and pin away. That is my kinda night! The only thing that would make it better is a glass an ipad ...or a glass of  wine...or ....

I am so looking forward to a relaxing weekend. Do you all have Monday off? In my district we've always celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day (rather than Columbus Day), but in the past we didn't have the day off. This year we do! I am loving this new change! In honor of my 3 day weekend, I think I might finally redeem my gift certificate and get a long awaited massage. Sounds like a good way to rejuvenate and kick off a new month! :)   

What have you been up to? Link up with Farley and share! 

Wishing you all a wonderful rest of the week and relaxing weekend, too! 

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