Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Text Features Freebie!

This is a little vocabulary quiz that is included at the end of my 'Sailing Through Text Features' packet.
Click on the picture to get your copy!

If you are interested in the whole pack, check it out here! It's only $1.50!!!




Sunday, October 28, 2012

Election Time Freebie!

Just a quick little freebie you might find helpful to use this week or next and get your kiddos ready to discuss the upcoming election. Students will use the words in the box to complete the sentences. Click on the picture to grab yours now!



Scooping Up Homophones!

Alrighty! My first actual real product on TpT is ready to go! I have to admit, it took a lot longer than I imagined it would! I set out to make a simple matching game and a few hours later (yes, hours! I know, right? It seems so simple... I have a lot to learn!) here it is!


This is a very simple matching game that students can use as a center or station to review homophones. It comes with a recording sheet for the matches and 18 homophone pairs. If you are interested in this product, I am giving it away for FREE!!! Yes! Free!!! Just click on the picture to grab your copy now from my brand new store!!

Happy Sunday, my friends!!!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Grand Opening!

I finally set it up! My own TpT shop! It is absolutely bare now, but no fear! I will have lots of products to come!

Stop by and pick up my Power Up! template that I use for word study for free!

Power Up Template Freebie!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Poetry Fun!

This week we started our unit on poetry. It has been F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S!  Mostly because I completely lucked out!! The past few weeks have been hectic to say the LEAST! On the way home from visiting my grandmother in the hospital last Sunday, I stopped by Barnes and Noble to pick up the beloved Shel Silverstein book Where the Sidewalk Ends - my copy had mysteriously disappeared after our poetry unit last year- shocker! Some lucky kiddo is enjoying it somewhere (I hope!) :) Anyway, I had planned on going in for just that one book- just the one! Wouldn't ya know that Barnes and Noble's deceptive powers took hold and I walked out with an armload of poetry books that I just *couldn't* live without! Thank goodness for my educator card! I really had no idea what a goldmine I had until I got home that night!

During my much deserved shopping spree (lol) I picked up several new poetry books, but I have to say my favorite was  Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry With a Beat.



I had never seen this book before and I am SO glad I found it! My kiddos are used to listening to rap and hip hop and to introduce poetry I always start with song lyrics. But this book took that to a whole new level! 

To backtrack a bit, on Monday we did a poetry exploration to kick off our unit. I put out tons of poetry books with poems of all types and the kids just read, read, read! They loved having the freedom to pick through the books until they found a poem they liked. I made sure that several types of poems were represented and that the kids had adequate time to encounter different types of poems. During this process, I continued to ask the students to think about their definition of poetry. At the end of our exploration time, we came to the carpet to summarize our findings and write down some of the things we noticed. 


The kids did a great job noticing the characteristics of poetry. They realized that some of the poems had rhyme, some didn't; some had rhythm, and some didn't. I was very pleased. The definition at the bottom was kid-generated. Not too shabby!! 

But the best part came on Tuesday...

The book I mentioned earlier came with a CD so you can hear the poems read aloud by the poets themselves! Too cool, right!?!  The kids got to hear the poems the way they were meant to be heard- and the best part was that some were true song lyrics with music and all! I could display the poems underneath my document camera so they could read along as they listened. To say my kids enjoyed it would be the understatement of the century- I had to do the whole "Ok boys and girls, settle down!" bit a few times to calm their excitement! But never before had I seen the kids so excited to read poetry! We listened to and read along with "Principal's Office" by Young MC, "Ladies First" by Queen Latifah, and "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang. Of course, they immediately picked up on the rhythm and rhyme, but they also began to notice repetition- which is a great start to day two!

After we listened to the those pieces, we listened to and read several other poems. The editor of the book, Nikki Giovanni, is an award-winning poet herself, and she included fabulous poems by several famous poets including Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and other poetry greats. My kiddos were introduced to metaphors in the poem "Waitin' on Summer" by Ruth Forman and discovered the importance of word choice while reading and listening to "Dat Dere" by Oscar Brown Jr. The book offers such a wonderful variety of quality poetry with beautiful sensory language and the sound that accompanies it is just the icing on the cake. My kids are officially hooked on poetry! 

For the rest of the week we explored all different types of poetry.  My kids have fallen in love with poetry and have really enjoyed searching for poetic devices. I found great resources from Amanda at  One Extra Degree with her Poetry: The Music of Our Hearts unit as well as from Hope King's iPoetry unit. I combined the two and put together a poetry packet that I am loving!. Amanda's unit has some great resources that help teach specific poetry skills- my favorite is one she calls 'Speaker Seeker' for those tricky poems where the speaker is something other than a person. I love it! To check out these units, click on the links below the graphics.

Some of the other books we used to explore poetry this week include (but surely are not limited to:)






Next week we will continue our poetry exploration and have a little poetry "Shel-abration" (many thanks to Amanda for the cute and creative idea!) I can't wait to share more!

Have a wonderful weekend!!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

One More!


One more thing I wanted to share! Those of you who use Morph House- which is just a strategy to show kids how to morph words- I created this printable. The possibilities for how to use this printable are endless. I'm thinking I might turn this into a center for our Friday review days. Kids can choose a word and fill out the house with a partner. If you have an idea for how to use this, leave a comment and let me know! Otherwise, enjoy!

Click here to get your copy!


A Little Piece of Gold

I am starting to feel the effects of the fall season on my allergies. Blah. My body never wants to cooperate when I have a list of things to get done! I had several things that I want to share, but in case I run out of steam, I wanted to be sure to share this one little piece of amazingness I found last week.

Amanda over at One Extra Degree is always full of wonderful ideas. If you do not follow her already, you need to head on over and take care of that right now!! She is a third grade teacher who uses Reading Street so you can bet I am her number one fan!

One of the things I struggle with every year is teaching kids how to write a quality summary. I have tried several things- the personal anecdotes about vacations- including ALL of the details about what I did and then cutting it down to the most important parts, the anchor charts that explain how to write a summary using the beginning, middle, and end, etc. Although the kiddos seemed to nod their heads in understanding, I felt like the concept never was truly clear.

Intro... the Summary vs. Retelling graphic organizer!!! (imagine trumpets trumpeting in the background!)



This little baby finally gave me the visual I needed to show the kids the difference between retelling and summarizing. I only wish I had taken pictures during this lesson!!!!

Last week, we read the story "Pushing Up the Sky" from Reading Street. We started filling out our graphic organizer by listing all of the details we could about each section of the kite (the setting, characters, problem, and solution).  I talked to the kids about how remembering details is important when you are retelling a whole story.
Then, it was time to fill in the center of the kite. We talked about how we needed to look at all of our details and condense them into something that captured the essence of what we had listed. If we only had a short amount of time and we had to capture the important parts of the story, we needed to figure out how to whittle it down a bit. To do this, we wrote one short phrase or sentence for each section and recorded it in the middle of the "kite." (I'm calling the middle of the organizer the 'kite' for lack of a better term :)) For example, the story had several characters- seven chiefs, a mother, a boy, a tall man-you get the picture- which were all listed on the outside of the kite. We discussed how all of these characters had something in common- they all lived in villages. Thus, we called them 'the villagers.' Easy peasy. The only thing we wrote on summary kite for characters was 'the villagers.' We repeated the process with each of the other sections. Then came the exciting part!!

Once the entire GO is filled in, it's time to bring out the scissors! We cut away all the extraneous details and we were left with just the short phrases and sentences in the middle. This left us with everything we needed to write a quality summary! Brilliant! The physical act of cutting away the details really helped hammer home the point of summarizing- plus the kiddos got to use the scissors- 100% engagement!  On the back of the kite, we took the information we had in the organizer and wrote a paragraph that summarized the story.

I truly feel confident that this process helped the kiddos understand what I mean when I say "retell" and what I mean when I say "summarize." I also feel confident that the more we practice this process, the better summarizers they will be!

Wanna know the best part of all of this?! Amanda is giving this wonderful tool for FREE! Yes! Free! Head on over to pick up your own copy and don't forget to leave a little love for Amanda while you are there! She has some great pictures of how this looked during her lesson. She used it with "My Rows and Piles of Coins."

I may or may not be back later to share other things from the past weeks. Our Texans are on Sunday Night Football tonight! So excited!!  Happy Sunday, everybody!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Oh, Technology!!!

Wow! My brain is on overload right now! I just attended my first live webinar session using Blackboard Collaborate. Those of you who are "techy," you may already know about these. For me, I am a newbie and I am so overwhelmed with all of the wonderful tools available out there for teachers!! It was amazing to be in a virtual classroom and hear so many great ideas from teachers all around the country!

I have been following Laura Candler on Pinterest and on her online website for a few months. She is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! She is so generous with sharing resources and information. If you have not checked out her stuff, be sure to look around her website HERE. She offers free webinars frequently.

This webinar was conducted on using web tools in the classroom. Now, if you know me, you know that I am an old soul. It's true.  When it comes to using technology, my experience, and frankly, my inspiration to try things, is minimal. I have seen several different apps, programs, websites, etc. introduced in faculty meetings and various trainings the past few years. The things looked great during the presentations, but I always struggled with finding practical ways to use these apps and things in the classroom. After this webinar, however, my mind is whirling with all the ways I can use this technology!

The first thing that I am most excited to share is Class Dojo. Now, I'm sure most of you are already Dojo pros at this and use it in your classrooms daily. Kudos to you!!  I tried using Class Dojo last year as a behavior incentive, and it just overwhelmed me. Honestly, it was so hard to remember to use the thing!  I always struggle with keeping up with behavior incentives of any kind- whether it be stickers, tally marks, behavior charts, etc. They are just so much work!! I know that if I do not put in the time to be consistent with those things, they become completely ineffective. But, wait!!! Stop!!! Who knew that Class Dojo has other uses besides just tracking individual students' behavior?!! I didn't!!!

The teacher who was presenting about Class Dojo shared the same concerns that I had about keeping up with her students' behavior individually. So instead, she created ONE avatar- yes ONE!- and named it (conveniently) 'Everyone.' Brilliant!! Instead of keeping up with tallies on the board or marbles in a jar (yes, I have tried them all) you can track the specific behaviors that you want the *entire* class to perform (sitting and working quietly, transitioning quickly, etc) using the Dojo system. All of the same concepts apply- the sounds, the data tracking, etc. I love that you can set individual skills to track and give points for those rather than trying to keep up with individual students.

This teacher, Suzy Brooks, tracks behaviors her class uses during Daily 5. As the picture shows, she can track patience, coaching, encouraging, EEKK, etc. The data is collected in a nice visual graph that the kids can analyze at the end of each day or each week. You can see the skills that they are using the most and the ones that need the most work. I just love it!!! Right now, my class is struggling with transitions. I can't wait to get this set up and try it out tomorrow. I think it might be just what the class needs to get motivated- and the best part is that I think I will actually be able to keep up with it!!

Check out Suzy's blog HERE

Other teachers presented on using Skype, Animoto, LiveBinders, and Kidblog. To hear the recording of the webinar and snag all the contact info for the presenters, including the websites and resources they shared, click HERE. I learned so much valuable information that I want to share- but it's not going to happen tonight!!

My brain is on overload! I'm headed now to set up my new ONE avatar to try a second go 'round with Class Dojo! If you have any other ideas for how to use Class Dojo, or any of the other websites I mentioned, please share with me and leave a comment!!

Happy Wednesday!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My Home Away From Home

Like most teachers, I spend a ridiculous amount of time at school. Because of this, I am a bit crazy about my room. If I'm going to be spending so much time there, I want it to be comfortable and cozy.

 I am blessed to teach at a school that is only two years old. I have wonderful technology- my favorite of which are solar tubes. Yes... solar tubes! They are wonderful! They let in natural light from the ceiling reducing our energy use and, by default, boosting my mood! Nothing gets me down more than the harsh glare of florescent lights. I hardly ever use the lights and my classroom is filled with cheery sunlight-except in the morning, or unless it's raining or cloudy.

I teach reading, so my favorite part of my classroom is our classroom library. It is my pride and joy! Nothing makes me more happy than walking in everyday and being greeted by the colorful covers of the books that fill the shelves. I swear, I am a book hoarder!! I may eventually need an intervention. I can't get enough of them! I truly believe a person can never have enough books. :)

I am an only child, and my parents absolutely spoil me. It's true. I admit it. Thanks to my mommy, I have had many-a-shipment of books from all over. My library is the culmination of countless trips to Half-Price Books, garage sales, teacher sales, and the ridiculous amount of books from mom. To be honest, I will never stop buying books. I believe that having our library as the primary backdrop in our classroom gets the kiddos excited to read. Sometimes it's hard for me to keep from browsing through the bins!

My library did not always look like it does this year. In the past, I have used the cheap plastic bins from Wal-Mart to store the books. Of course, anytime I needed more, they would be out of the color I needed, so my poor library looked a little something like this... (excuse the poor picture quality)

This year, my amazing parents gave me the best gift ever- new bins- and the good ones from Really Good Stuff!!! They are worth every penny! Thanks to a ridiculous amount of books my mom bought for me over the summer and the beautiful new bins, my library now looks like this...


Ahh... I just love it! Blue is my favorite color and I love how it brings a sense of uniformity to the books. If you like the bins, you can check them out HERE.

To get the kiddos excited about the library, it was off limits for the first four days of school. I tempted the kids all week with sneak peeks of various books from the bins but did not allow anyone to check books out. After a grueling four days, we had our grand opening! I made it a big deal- complete with a grand opening sign and colorful streamers. The kids were psyched when they came in the room! They were itching to dive into the bins- but of course, they had to hear the "we will respect our books and library" speech from me first. :)




The kids had a blast looking through the bins for the first time. We may have gone a little over our allotted reading time that day.... shhhh!

Here are a few other random shots of my room. I'm regretting that I didn't take pictures of the room BEFORE the kids came... oh well- you see it now as it is today!





These pictures were taken in the morning, so you aren't able to see the effects of the solar tubes... boo! You will have to use your imagination!

I conveniently *forgot* to take a picture of my desk... I guess you can use your imagination with that, too! :)

My classroom isn't anything fancy, but it's "home!"


Monday, October 8, 2012

Welcome In!

So, after much pondering and thought, I have decided to jump into the blogging world!!! I'm actually slightly nervous as I'm typing this because I have been wanting to blog for so long and I'm finally making the official jump!

 This blog will be a mix of personal and educational posts... depending on my mood :) My goal is more to share my world with anyone who may be interested. I can't help but giggle, because I can't imagine who would be interested in reading about my life... but hey, you never know!!

 By no means am I promising anything earth-shattering or extremely worthwhile, but I feel like at times it could be fun to just share my thoughts.

So... backing up a bit, I wanted to share some of the things I made for my classroom before school started.

In my classroom students share desks. I have one class in the morning and another class in the afternoon. Storage is always an issue and I have tried storing the kiddos' *stuff* in the desks and it just didn't work. If you are a teacher, you have the visual of the desk chock-full of loose paper, remnants from breakfast, and who knows what else. No fun. So last year I started using what I call "book boxes."

The "book boxes" are just the cheap cardboard magazine file boxes from IKEA. After browsing around on Pinterest, I found some inspiration for how I could jazz them up a bit. All it took was some cute ribbon and some star cutouts and voila! A cuter version of a plain white box!


The kiddos store their notebooks, folders, and other materials in the boxes rather than in their desks. They work like a charm! The small pop of color makes getting materials just a tad more enjoyable. :)

Another project I worked on was my data bucket. This I love! I am all about data and sometimes it's easy to go on data overload. However, I have struggled with a way to store data so that is easily accessible and portable. For years, I have used a data binder and I have HATED IT! I dreaded punching holes in all of the papers and as I even now as I write I can still hear the haunting sound of the binder rings snapping and unsnapping... ugh. It would take me F.O.R.E.V.E.R. to file papers and inevitably something would go wrong-one of the holes would miss the rings or- and this would always happen to me- I would forget to snap the rings back together and flip to a different section... and yep... all the papers would fall out! Misery. Well, to avoid all of that, I decided to use a bucket instead!

This handy bucket is small enough to carry back and forth to meetings but large enough to hold file folders for all of my students. No more punching holes!!!! I cannot tell you how much of a lifesaver this little buddy of mine has been! Most importantly, it's cute (or at least I think so)!! My teacher friend, Mandy, came up with the cute name. The box is actually one my mom, who was a special-ed teacher for thirty-four years, used when she taught. I gave it new life by adding some scrapbook paper. Easy peasy!  If storing data is a struggle for you like it was for me, this might be a good option. I am actually looking forward to parent conferences! Ha!


I apologize for this random post. I have so much more to share from past weeks, but it will have to wait for another day. I'm excited to start this new adventure! Look back soon for more. :)