Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hello Engagement!!

After seeing Rachel's post on Facebook, I decided to write a quick description of one of my all-time favorite activities that works well for any subject at any part of the day.

Whenever you feel like the kids need a break, you need to transition, or you just need a breather, it's time to bust out the quiz-quiz-trade cards!

Quiz-Quiz-Trade is a strategy that was created by Kagan Cooperative Learning. You can check out their website here. They have written several grade specific and content specific books with loads of ideas on how to use cooperative learning in the classroom- and LOTS of resources already made! They are AMAZING!!! Every strategy is created with engagement AND social skills in mind.

Here's how it works:

Every kid in the class gets a card. One one side of the card is a question of some sort. You can really make this in any form. I have used elaborate cards with typed up questions with answer choices and I have also used cards with just a single vocabulary word - the choice is yours. On the other side of the card is the answer the the question or the definition if you choose to go the vocabulary route.

On your call, students stand up and hold their hands in the air. They find a partner and high-five them. They greet their partner by saying "Hi, partner." Did I mention this a great way to incorporate social skills??! Give students a cue about which person will quiz first- longer hair, taller partner, etc.

The partner who goes first holds the question side of their card out to their partner. The partner reads the question (or whatever information is included on the card) out loud and answers the question. If they answer the question incorrectly, I tell my students they must tip before they tell the answer. They must use phrases like, "Good try, try again, " or, "that was a good try, try again." When the partner gets the answer correct, the partner asking the question provides a praise. We made a poster of "Ways to Praise" that lists different ideas the students can choose from to praise their partner. The next partner then repeats the process by holding up their card, tipping if needed, and praising after an answer is provided.

After both partners have quizzed each other (hence the "quiz-quiz" part of the title), they trade cards. They then high-five their partner again, tell them "Bye, partner," put their hand in the air and move to find a new partner, taking their new card with them and repeating the process over and over until the signal is given to stop.

I cannot tell you how amazing this strategy is. The kids are 100% engaged and they can go at it for several minutes at a time. It is PERFECT for those pesky transition periods where you need to pass out materials, take up papers, or just take a second to breathe! You can do this with any content. It is so versatile!

I wish I had more pictures to share- I will try to take some tomorrow and share more resources!

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Well, I partially reached my goal. I had imagined making a mega gingerbread pack with math and language arts stuff... but then reality hit! You know the feeling?! So, what I have instead is a word work pack- still with a gingerbread theme!

If you are interested, this pack includes five word work activities, all with super adorable gingerbread graphics. Antonyms, synonyms, homophones, contractions, and prefixes and suffixes are included. I just finished printing, cutting, and laminating so they are ready to go! Click the picture to check it out in my store. :)

I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Time to Breathe!

Well, friends, it's time to take a little break! Ah! An entire week to step back, reevaluate, and PLAN! It is hard for me to truly stay away from school stuff, so with this break, my work is just beginning!

I LOVE this time of year. I especially love all the seasonal fun that can be brought into the classroom.  Something about having cute centers and clip art on worksheets makes everything more enjoyable!

If you love gingerbread, keep your eyes peeled because sometime within the next week (yes, I'm saying it here so I can hold myself to that deadline!) I will be posting a new gingerbread-themed pack with math AND literacy center stuff plus some random gingerbread-y things!

For now, I have a little gingery synonym game to offer. It's free! Click on the picture to get your copy!

I hope all of you have a fabulous Thanksgiving!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sailing Through Text Features!

Last week, we started our unit on expository texts. I love this time of year because we get to read all kinds of wonderful texts and learn lots of interesting facts! Before we could dive completely into expository texts, we took a few days to examine the text features authors use to help readers better understand texts.

To show the kiddos just how important text features are, I first gave them an article to read that had no added text features- just the title and the words. I used an article from one of my Scholastic News issues and just typed it up- no pictures, no color. The kids read through the article with a partner and we discussed what we read and found evidence that the text was in fact expository. This particular article was about a kid who survived the Joplin tornado and sparked lots of interesting discussion. :)

After the conversation ceased, I told them I had a second article I wanted them to read. I passed out a "new" article- which in fact was the exact SAME text but as it appeared in the Scholastic News Magazine- text features, colors, and all. By the way, if you don't have access to Scholastic News, it is definitely worth the money! They are wonderful!  The kids started reading and a few seconds in recognized that it was the same article!! Lots of kiddos said 'Hey! This is the same thing!" I gave my best, "Are you sure?" look asked the kids to explain how this was the same article. It looked completely different!!

And so began our discussion of text features!

We talked about which of the two texts the kids would be drawn to read if they had the choice- the text with no pictures and color or the one with. Of course, they all exclaimed emphatically that they would choose the colorful one. We had wonderful conversation about why they would choose that one and why an author would take all the extra time and energy to add all of those wonderful extras to the article. I was  pleasantly surprised to hear their insightful answers. The kids had a great appreciation for text features after our discussion!

Once the idea of text features was introduced, we dove into to studying the most common text features readers come across. We read a different article, also from Scholastic News (oh, how I love those things!) and as we read, we added the text features we came across to our 'Sailing Through Text Features' book. The kids cut out the features they saw and glued them underneath the description. The kids enjoyed getting to add their own examples to their books and anytime we bust out the scissors and the glue you can guarantee excitement! If you would like to take a look at this book, you can check it out here.

This year, I wanted to focus more on headings as important text features. Headings are such wonderful tools that help readers make predictions, quickly find information, and understand the important ideas in sections of text. At the end of last year, our team had the idea to cut up an entire article and have the kiddos reassemble it and match the text features to the different parts of the article. I loved this idea and I was so excited to try it this year. I knew that I wanted to focus on headings, so I chose an article that would force the kids to match sections of text with the proper headings.

The kiddos received baggies with pieces of an article cut up. They had to reassemble the article and match the sections of text with the correct headings.

 It was a hit! The kids had to read carefully and think about where each heading belonged and explain why. This article was tricky and required the kids to recognize key words and details that matched the text to the appropriate heading. They were so proud when they had the article fully assembled!

In the coming weeks as we read more challenging texts, the kids will repeat this activity with a longer article with several sections of text that need to be matched to headings. Also in the coming weeks, we will continue our study of expository texts and become expository experts using strategies like drawing conclusions, finding cause and effect relationships, and finding main ideas! Fun times to come!

Two more days and then a week-long break! Can I make it?! I hear Dory singing loud and clear, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!" Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Whirlwind Trip- and a Big Win!

Well, we are back in H-Town after a fast and furious weekend trip to Chicago! We had been looking forward to this trip for so long, and it turned out to be better than we could have ever imagined!

We started off by doing a little sight-seeing around the city. Our hotel was in the PERFECT location and everything was within walking distance. Of course we had to see the infamous 'Bean' in Millennium Park...

 and we enjoyed the beautiful architecture of the city as we cruised along the Chicago River.

The bridges amazed me- we actually went under one RIGHT as it was closing- to say I was nervous is a huge understatement!! Thank goodness those men knew what they were doing!

After the cruise, we headed over to the famous Gino's East Pizzeria for some Chicago deep dish! It was well worth the wait!!

We walked along the Magnificent Mile- and yes it was magnificent! It would have been even more magnificent if I had an entire day and an unlimited budget to shop! But, it was still fun to window shop!

We took a much longer than expected walk along a path that followed Lake Michigan and headed to Navy Pier. It was beautiful! We had a nice crisp breeze and amazing views as we walked (minus the incredible amounts of duck doo doo on the sidewalk- you can see all the brown spots in the picture below). :)

Navy Pier was huge! I'm sure we walked for at LEAST a mile down that pier- if not, it sure felt like it! We had a great ride on the Ferris Wheel and enjoyed the view of the city at night. Gorgeous!

But of course, the highlight of the trip, and the reason for the trip in the first place, was the Texans game at Solider Field. As I mentioned earlier, we had been looking forward to this trip since October, when I gave Jeff this trip as his birthday present. For weeks, I had envisioned us wearing our Texans gear, wrapped up cozily enjoying the game with a cool breeze in the air. What we got was NOT that. What we got was W.E.T. Plain. Old. Wet!

We spent a good amount of the day on Sunday enjoying some drinks and watching both the other NFL games AND the ominous black clouds overtake the city. As game time grew nearer, the more nervous I got. I kept looking out the window as the sky darkened and I just knew it would be horrendous weather.

As we walked toward the stadium, the rain started and it did. not. stop. Ever. At all! Of course we were beside ourselves with excitement from being in the famous Soldier Field! It was so elegant all lit up for Veteran's Day.

Surprisingly, there were a ton of other Texans fans roaming the stadium decked out in their gear. We made our way to our seats (which were 12 rows up from the field-yes, be jealous!) and watched the team warm up.

My man, JJ Watt, was warming up on the field. He was SO going to come over and get in the picture with me, but then he got busy.... ha! I can only imagine! This is as close as I could get without jumping the rail (which I totally could have done!)

We got to see a lot of the players up pretty close before the game started. It was awesome! Barwin is HUGE!!

And through it all, it rained. Not a downpour- just a steady, non-stop, never-ending, relentless (did I use enough adjectives here to capture it?!) drizzle. Luckily, we had stopped by a local Target earlier in the day to pick up some rain suits. The flimsy ponchos we brought from home would NOT have cut it! We may have looked like we were skiing, but they sure did help keep us semi-dry!!

We were surrounded by Bears fans and I was nervous at first, but they were very polite. Of course, they didn't have much to say after we got the win! The game was absolutely awesome! I had to quiet Jeff a few times to ensure we didn't get punched, but besides that, we cheered our team to victory! It was incredible! Excuse the blurry pictures, I was so afraid of ruining my phone in the rain!

We stayed after to congratulate the team as they made their way back into the locker rooms.

It was such an amazing night. We are so proud of our Texans and how hard they fought, even through the annoying rain!

Now it's back to reality and the daily grind tomorrow! A few more days of fun with the kiddos and then we get a break for Thanksgiving!!

Have a great week and congratulations to all you Texans fans!!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Rock the Vote 2012!

Before the hubs and I take off for a weekend in the windy city, I had to take a minute and share a little about our first ever gator election!

On Tuesday, while the country headed to the polls, so did our kiddos! Lines were long as kids came to the library to cast their voice and let their voices be heard.

Every kiddo in our building received a voter registration card before they came to the polls. Our office staff worked very hard to put these together! They looked so professional! I wish I could show you one, but they all had the kids' information already filled in.

(*Please excuse the blurry mess. I can't figure out how to cutely edit the pictures! If you have any suggestions, please let me know!!)

Upon reaching the polling place, they had to check in and show both their student ID and their voter registration card and sign in. They signed their name and prepared to vote!

The kids voted both electronically and on paper. It's always best to have a backup!

Aren't the ballots adorable?! Thanks go to my very creative principal who designed them :)

The kids even got cute 'I Voted' stickers to wear to show that they had done their duty as responsible citizens!

Our students seemed to really enjoy having the opportunity to vote. Obama won by a landslide! The kids were beside themselves when we announced the official results at the end of the day! :)

Tomorrow night the hubs and I are headed to Chicago to see the Texans play at Soldier Field! I cannot wait!! The forecast calls for rain and this girl is NOT built to handle cold and rain, so pray for good weather! I will have lots to share next week!! Go Texans!!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Huge First!!!!

I am beside myself! I actually finished a pack- yes- a pack- of literacy activities for fall! It only took me an eternity, but it is finally finished! I am so excited about these fall centers because they are rigorous enough for my third graders yet still cute (at least I think so!)

These centers focus on some of the topics we are studying in our classroom and include:

-Prefixes and Suffixes
-Verb Tenses
-Expanding "boring" sentences
-Singular and Plural nouns

If your students could use some practice with any of the topics listed above, check out the pack in my store by clicking on the picture below!

As a little thank-you for visiting my blog, here is a cute fall freebie- my expanding sentences cards! Use these to help kiddos expand their sentences by adding a who, what, when, where, and why! Click on the picture to get your copy!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Week in Rewind

Whew! This week has felt S.O. long- and we haven't even had a full week!!! Monday was parent conference day and the kiddos had the day off while we spent the day talking with parents. It was a nice change of pace, but ask me why I still felt frazzled on Tuesday even after having that semi-"relaxing" day on Monday!? Crazy how that works. Pile a full moon AND Halloween on top of that, and you get one tired teacher! To add salt to the wound, we take our first big district reading test TOMORROW!! Yikes! Hopefully the sugar highs will have worn off by then!

The little ones have been working hard over the past two weeks reading all types of poetry and learning about poetic devices. What I love most about poetry is the sensory language. We discussed how in poetry authors have to be incredibly picky about the words they use to depict just the right scene or mood. It was so fun picking out the sensory language and discussing it. We had some wonderful conversations.

Yesterday, we capped off our unit with a little poetry "Shel-abration." We spent the day reading poems by Shel Silverstein.  I had planned to show my kids around his website and play some of the animated poems, but my computer wasn't working correctly and I could not get to the website! Darn technology when it doesn't work!!! Thank goodness I had found the special edition of Where the Sidewalk Ends last Sunday when I had my mini shopping spree! It came with an audio CD- how great is that?! We were able to listen to Shel himself read our two favorite poems, "Sick," and "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out." The kids ate these up! We used the last of the pages in our poetry notebook to visualize the poems and then we illustrated the garbage pile Sarah Cynthia Stout created. So fun!!

I got the idea of a poetry "Shel-abration" from Amanda over at One Extra Degree and she, being the amazing teacher she is, took her kids outside and let them write with chalk on the sidewalk- hence the poem "Where the Sidewalk Ends." I decided that this was just a bit much for me, so instead, I brought the sidewalk inside!! I rolled out a sheet of yellow butcher paper and it became our "sidewalk." The kids were psyched when they walked in and saw the bright paper on the floor. I held off until the end to explain that they would actually get to write on the sidewalk with smelly markers! Cue the ooohs and ahhhs! After we read the poem "Where The Sidewalk Ends," the kiddos chose their two favorite lines from any of the poems we had read that day and they wrote them on the sidewalk. It was a hit! I think smelly markers may be making more of an appearance in our classroom. :) If you like what you see, check out Amanda's poetry unit here.

We also studied homophones this week. We watched the adorable homophone video from Between the Lions. Brian McKnight is singing with Cleo Lion and it. is. hilarious! You know the kids were totally glued to the screen! If you have not seen it, you must watch it-now. Seriously. Now!

After the video, we discussed several homophone pairs and made an oober-simple foldable to practice determining the difference between common homophones.

The foldable was great, but I decided to make something a tad cuter to use every now and then. Click on the picture to get your copy!

What a week! Now I'm off to try to get some shut-eye before tomorrow. Hopefully the kiddos will make me proud on their tests! Cross your fingers and wish us luck!!

Have a happy Friday, friends!!!