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Friday, September 28, 2012

A little bit of this & a little bit of that...

It's Friday!!! Yay! I feel like there has been so much going on this week my head is still don't be surprised when this post is ALL over the place! :)

The ABC's of ME 
 We had Back to School night last Thursday and I had the kids make these sweet little books from Laura Candler. I think they're pretty cute and the kids really got into them. Of course the parents loved them too! If you wanna get your copy click *HERE*. This is a super easy project that's perfect for Back to School Night, Open House, etc.

Each book was placed on top of the student's desk so the parents were able to read them as soon as they sat down. The sentence starters in Laura's book are really thoughtful and the parents loved seeing what their child had to say. Again, if you want a copy click *HERE*

I love me some Target! 
I am loving these fall finds...all from the $2.50/$1.00.
These little gems are making my classroom feel all warm and cozy for fall....despite to 80 degree temps outside. (I keep telling myself I should be grateful but I really wanna wear a comfy sweater and cute boots and curl up with my pumpkin spice latte.....maybe in a few more weeks!)

Winner, winner! Chicken dinner!
I woke up this morning to an email from Christina from Ramblings of a Fifth Grade Teacher. I won a Starbucks gift card from her giveaway!  You know I love that!  Head on over to her blog and check it out! :)
My Photo

Well, I think that's it for my randomness for today....I have a lot of projects to work on this weekend so I hope that I have something to share on here in the next couple of days. Have a FAB Friday! :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Visualize...The Movie in your Mind

Happy Monday! 

My Monday ran pretty smoothly and I am actually home before 5:00. I cannot complain. :) I had an impromptu observation this morning but our reading lesson went well (read on to find out more about the lesson). Here's to hoping the rest of the week runs just as smoothly!

One of my goals for the school year is to do a better job teaching and modeling reading strategies. I have found so many great ideas out here in blog land and now that I am really getting into the school year we are jumping in head first. I am trying to find some ways to incorporate the strategies into our daily routines and our school's curriculum as much as possible so that my students don't miss the connection between our mini lessons and the real world. 

Today my class worked on visualizing while reading. We used our class novel, Socks by Beverly Cleary,  to help us practice this skill. We discussed that visualizing is like seeing the events of the book as a movie in your mind.

The lesson began as I read the first 4 pages of Socks aloud  while the students had their heads down. During this time their only job was to visualize the setting, characters and events in those first 4 pages.  Then they turned to their neighbor and shared what they visualized as I read. 

Next, I passed out the same 4 pages and had the students read the passage silently. Any time they found a particular word or phrase that helped them to make that movie in their mind, they would highlight it. My kids were all kinds of happy about this...some got a little highlight happy! 

After they had highlighted the page I asked them questions like, "What does Debbie look like?" They would give their answer and I would respond, "How do you know?" It was their job to go back into the text and find the proof in the text. "I know that her arms are red because on page 11 it says that...."This helped them to make the connection between the words on the page and the things they visualized in their minds.

Then for the fun part. The kids illustrated the scene and provided at least three quotes from the book that helped them to visualize the scene from the story. Overall I think that this lil project really helped them to cement the concept of visualizing in their minds. We still need some more work before they have  automaticity with this reading skill but I think that they are off to a good start! 

How was your Monday? Leave me a comment and let me know. :) 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Lazy Sunday and a Columbus Day Resource

Whew! Another busy week has come and gone! 

We had our annual back to school night this past Thursday. I spent the week cleaning my room and frantically finishing up some last minute projects.  Besides the fact that the cupcakes I brought to share with the families were swarmed with ants by lunchtime and that my classroom bookshelf decided to collapse about 30 minutes before the parents arrived, the night was a success!

It is always interesting to spend time with the parents and learn a little more about our students. I had a pretty good turn out and I was so happy to share my students hard work with their families. All in all it was a good night! 

I spent yesterday busy with my side job and now, my weekly Sunday planning ritual is seems like I was sitting in this same spot planning a minute can it be that another week has already come and gone?!?! 

Anyway, as I sit here  blogging, surfing the web, watching TV,  planning I am looking forward to October. While searching through all of my October stuff I found one of my favorite  Columbus Day resources and wanted to share. 

I found this song a couple of years ago and I really love the way that it acknowledges and honors both the diverse Native Americans cultures, as well as  the contributions of Christopher Columbus. It usually leads to some good discussion in fifth grade... 
   You can listen to the song *here*. 

Here are the lyrics: 

Words and music © 1991 by Nancy Schimmel

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue,
It was a courageous thing to do
But someone was already here.
Columbus knew the world was round
So he looked for the East while westward bound,
But he didn't find what he thought he found
And someone was already here.


The Innuit and Cherokee,
The Aztec and Menominee,
The Onadaga and the Cree;
Columbus sailed across the sea,
But someone was already here.
It isn't like it was empty space,
Caribs met him face to face.
Could anyone discover the place
When someone was already here?


So tell me, who discover what?
He thought he was in a different spot.
Columbus was lost, the Caribs were not;
They were already here.

Columbus Day actually acts as a great segway for my curriculum because we shift from our unit on Native Americans in Pre-Columbian North America and begin our unit on the Age of Exploration.

Here are some great books I also use when discussing Christopher Columbus with my students: 

 Kids love this book! Lots of great facts not only about Columbus' voyages but also sailing during the time period in general. Engaging read!

Encounter (Voyager books)
This story of Columbus' landing is told from the point of view of a Taino child.  This book lends itself  nicely to teaching perspective and looking at both sides of a story. Wonderful illustrations!
Christopher Columbus: Famous Explorer (Graphic Biographies series) (Graphic Library: Graphic Biographies)
And since my kiddos are such comic book fanatics I just picked up this guy on Amazon today. I've seen other books from the series and I am hoping that this one is a great as the others I have seen. 

How do you teach about Columbus? Leave a comment and let me know! 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend! 

As for me  I'll be here diligently planning...or maybe I'll go for a walk or head down to the bookstore ...or.....

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Something Good

Blogging two days in a row?!?!?!? I must be catching my school year stride. :) 

I am linking up with Jennifer at Rowdy in First Grade for this fun little party. 

At school: 

My kids HEART writing-- like big puffy heart writing! They are writing every day and the only moans and groans I here are "What? Times up?" and "C'mon give us 5 more minutes!". 

We read The Mysteries of Harris Burdick today (If you haven't read it, it's a must read).

The story is really a collection of drawing with open ended captions. The students used a picture and caption from the book as inspiration to write their own creative stories. My kiddos spent 15 *SILENT* minutes writing. With these kids 15 minutes of silence is a miracle! And they also listened quietly as students sat in the author's chair to read their stories aloud. *Proud Teacher*

At Home: 
I am ready for a productive weekend. I know that doesn't sound too exciting but I finally have time to breathe and ORGANIZE!!! I have a to-do list a mile long and I also have some motivation and energy.  I am planning a morning of grading and lesson planning at my fav Starbucks, tons of errands and then maybe a little shopping for myself afterward. I mean I deserve it after grading on a Saturday morning, right?

Link up with Jennifer and let us all in on the positive things going on in your life! Hope you are all having a fabulous weekend!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Making Contact

Hi all! And happy Friday!!! So glad it's the weekend. That being  said, this is the first Friday that I am not completely EXHAUSTED. I feel like I am starting to find my stride (and I am hoping I didn't just jinx myself!).

I went to a  professional development meeting yesterday and the presenter was great. We were discussing starting the year off and the importance of  creating strong relationships with our students and their families in order to have a year that runs smoothly.

 It got me  thinking about  how my own approach to creating relationships with parents has evolved over time. I am still new-ish to teaching (this will be my third year) and the longer I teach the more time I spend reaching out to parents.

I have such a great respect for my parents! I teach at a charter school in a very urban community in a low income neighborhood. All of my parents work very hard to provide for their children and for most their child's education is a BIG priority. I am lucky in that regard! I want them to know how much I care about their students and want to keep them informed in regards to their child's progress academically, behaviorally and socially. But with all of the other demands I face as a teacher coupled with the language barriers and crazy work schedules of my parents, building a relationship takes a conscious effort on my part.  I do not work at a school where students are walked on to the schoolyard and parents are waiting after school to speak with the teacher. That is just not reality for me.

Anyway, I just wanted to share a few ways that I  found to build a relationship with the parents...

1) "Getting To Know Your Child"
Along with the traditional parent letter, I send home this form at the beginning of the year. I was really touched by the thoughtful words from many of the parents. I was truly able to get to know a different side of each student and it really opened the lines of communication with parents.

2) Weekly Reports
I send home these quick little reports every Friday.  This little check-in totally prevents any big surprises when grades come out/parent conference time.  I love, love this resource from Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6. You can find this freebie in her TpT store here. Added bonus---Stephanie has a Spanish version as well! Really helps me since at least half of my parents speak Spanish and I do not.

3)  Good Notes Home
I am sure there is a cuter name for these little guys but in my class we call them good notes and you would be surprised at how hard my big bad 5th graders will work to earn one of these little things!
I use a clip chart for behavior management and when I child has an excellent day and makes it to the top of the behavior chart they receive a note to take home to their families. About half way through last year...after 6 months of scrambling to complete notes before the 3 o'clock bell, I came up with these little guys. I usually try to add a little more of a personal note on the back but this little template  is a huge time saver. :)

 Of course, if they have a hard day they also have a note that they take home for their parents, too. I have designed this "Think About It" form as a reflection for poor choices.

To get a copy of the notes click here.

So that's what I do. What do you do????? I am always looking for ways to build those strong relationships and help students find success in all areas of their lives.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Science Notebook Love

As I spent hours wasting time  gathering ideas on Pintrest this summer, I started stock piling tons of science ideas. There are so many amazing ideas out there! Check out my "Science Board" on Pintrest.

Science has never been my favorite subject and it's always a little challenging for me to teach. This year I decided to use interactive notebooks with my kiddos during science. I actually started using interactive notebooks in social studies last year and LOVED them so I was very excited to start researching new ways to incorporated this same strategy with science.

 I was amazed with the creative ideas I found on amazed that I was actually looking forward to teaching science. *Gasp!*

Well  last week was the start or our science notebooks and so far the kids are loving science time and their notebooks are looking pretty spiffy if I do say so myself. This week we focused on the organization and set up of the notebook as well as an understanding of the basics of science.

 Here is a peek into our science notebooks so far...remember we just started so there's not a whole lot...yet!

Science Notebook title page (Pintrest inspired, of course!)

We created this anchor chart together and discussed what scientists study. My chart paper version is hanging in the classroom. My students created their own version on the "teacher side" of the notebook.

On the "student side" they created this simple foldable.

Our next lesson focused on the scientific method. On the "teacher side" Students completed clozed notes highlighting the steps of the scientific method. We also watched a BrainPop video and discussed each step of the scientifc method in detail.

Then the kids created their own illustrated version of the scientific method for the student side of their notebooks. they simply created the mini-book and then pasted the back cover to their notebooks.  They had so much fun with these! :)

So all in all, I am a HUGE fan of the interactive notebook so far. It is helping me stay organized and I am feeling much less overwhelmed. My kiddos are happy too. Love it!

Do you use interactive notebooks in your class? Any tips?

Monday, September 3, 2012


Happy Labor Day everybody! I hope you are all having an amazing day off.  Labor Day is always a little bitter sweet. I love fall but summer is just so is hard to let it go. Oh well, such is life!

Now on with the currently... I am so excited to be linking up with Farley at Oh, Boy Fourth Grade! 

I think we can all agree that sleeping in on a Monday is pure bliss! And I can really say that my Labor Day weekend has been a great end to a wonderful summer. 

I spent an amazing weekend with my very bestest and oldest friends in the world. We all met in kindergarten and I always treasure the time we get to spend together. This weekend we got together and pretty much talked and laughed for 24 hours straight. It always amazes me how we can just pick up like no time has passed. The visit was good for my soul! 

I came home in time to spend Labor Day at home.  Sleeping in + my FAVORITE Starbucks Rice Krispie treats + a little shopping = a good day in my book! I am headed to a BBQ with my boyfriend's family in a little. me some BBQ, too!

Now I just gotta get my booty in gear so I am ready for reality tomorrow. I signed up to teach an after school program two days a week and it starts tomorrow. Art class with K - 5th graders should be fun and very messy! (Guess tomorrow is not the best day to wear my new jeans!)

I hope you all have a wonderful week! I am sending out a little extra love to those of you who are starting school this week!
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