Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Someone once said...

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.  Maya Angelou

End of Year Projects

With standardized testing over, students get antsy and unfocused.  Today, however, went great.  I am working on 3 different projects with my kids.  These are long term projects started before testing so the students were already excited about them.  They are now able to focus on their products.  Favorite sound today...students begging to stay in for more "work time" instead of going outside for recess. 

Digital Storytelling
Before testing, students went through the writing process to write a new story.  They brainstormed using a graphic organizer, wrote a rough draft, and edited and revised their draft using a writing checklist and specific revision points (transition words and alternate "said" words). After students self edited they could peer edit and then conference with a teacher - in the class during this time were myself, the EC assistant, and sometimes the EC inclusion teacher.  Students then wrote a final draft.  Students were very use to this process as we have used it throughout the year.  Then came the new stuff.  Student created a storyboard that they used to break down the text and match it with related images that they could create or find through an image search.  Then came finding the images.  Students struggled because some of them wanted very specific images but once they broadened their searches, they were able to find some great and somewhat hilarious images.  We are now at the stage that we are working with Windows Movie Maker.  Students are importing their images, adding transitions, and text.  Next will come the audio.  This is the part I am most nervous about.  Hopefully it goes smoothly and I have some great projects to post. Stay tuned!!

Microsoft's Digital Storytelling in the Classroom
Storyboard Template

Since the school I work at is focused on project based and experiential learning, we take part and lots of real life field experiences - team building, mountain trip (orchards, caverns, gem mining), revolutionary war stations, the symphony and capitol building, nature museum, and coast trip (island walk and aquarium).  After each of the trips students reflected on their experiences through writing projects of various genres - poems, lists, labeled diagrams, non-fiction/informational (PPT and website from technology class), and narratives.  These pieces also went through the writing process to be published in our scrapbooks.  I also printed out photos from our field trips and class activities that students wrote captions for.  Until now, students have just had their writing and photos collected in a folder.  NOW, they get to bring out their creativity with scrapbooking paper, paint, stickers, borders, etc.  The students will leave this year with a book that (hopefully!!) they will keep for many years.  After laminating their covers today, I might be even more excited than my students to see the final products :)

Beginning of the Year Directions
Creative Scrapbooking

Book Projects
I posted earlier that students would be working on independent book projects...well they started today.  So far so good.  A few of the students decided to change their minds on what project they wanted to complete so luckily I had a couple extra direction packets so things went smoothly.  The kids were engaged and going back into their texts to work on their projects.  An engaged class is a well behaved class. 

Link to Post on Reading Partnerships

Monday, May 23, 2011

Someone once said....

"If a seed of a lettuce will not grow, we do not blame the lettuce. Instead, the fault lies with us for not having nourished the seed properly." - Buddhist proverb

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

EOG Superheros

In the midst of the EOG crunch, it is important for students not to get overwhelmed and stressed out (that's for the teachers!).  The students have been working all year to get to this point and they know so much already.  They have many strategies and tools under their belt.  They have test taking super powers!  Around this time the past couple of years, I have my students create their own EOG Test Taking Superhero.  They get to add super powers - highlighters, calculators, erasers, etc to a super hero.  I have even had kids draw an EOG villain.   This is creative and fun way to review what the students know and empower them before the big week!

EOG Superhero

Link to Printable Superhero Coloring Sheets

Monday, May 9, 2011

Someone said...

"If you want to live more, you must master the art of appreciating the little everyday blessings of life. This is not altogether a golden world but there are countless gleams of gold to be discovered in it." --Henry Alfred Porter

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Teacher's A Witch

Morning Meeting is definitely the time I get to know my kids the best.  On Thursday, after continuing Tuesday's comment of how to actually get me a boyfriend as a teacher appreciation gift - chocolate, gingerbread, etc...., the same student announced to the class that I looked like a witch.  It wasn't as bad as it sounds but I forget the exact context.  This student followed up that it was because I have a long pointy nose.  I had different ways I could take this as the other students stared in disbelief that a student would say this about his teacher.  What a teachable moment...I chose to let the kids in on a secret:
"Yes, my nose is long and pointy - I get it from my Dad.  It use to bother me and when I was younger kids would tell me I looked like a ferret (are these really the animals with the longest noses?! really?!).  But it is part of me and my nose isn't going anywhere so I learned to accept it and laugh about it also."  The kids had all sorts of comments to add about how they love ferrets and they are actually really cute.  I do love when they try to make me feel better :) I didn't stop at just sharing this but continued...
"I also have a freckle on the end of my nose and people are always telling me I have dirt there."  At this someone agreed that this would be really annoying and they would get tired of it.  I continued...
"You probably haven't noticed this either but my ears are different.  One is lacking a crease.  I use to want this changed but now it's just me."
After the students got a good look at my ears I let them have the chance to share something about them that makes them different.  Not everyone chose to share and that okay because this was something very personal.  But I loved the courage of the students willing to own their differences...
"I have big feet like everyone in my family."
"I have flat feet. I also have Sever's disease and blood doesn't flow to my feet right.  I have autism."
"Everyone in my family is far sighted and has to wear glasses. I'm supposed to but I don't wear mine."
"I'm on the shorter side of my age."
"I have big ears."
"I'm small and I have funny ears.  I kind of look like an elf."
"I have a birthmark on my head that makes my hair blonde in one spot."

I am now sitting watching a DVR'ed episode of Glee where they are addressing the same idea.  I hope that my students will learn early on that its our differences that make us so great and just as much as we have to own our differences, we need to respect others' as well.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Reading Partnerships

Reading Partnerships is similar to book clubs but it is only 2 students working together at a time.  If I would have thought of this at the beginning of the year, I would have started here before moving to the larger groups of literature circles (3-6 students).  In Reading Partnerships, 2 students read and discuss the same book.  I am currently doing Reading Partnerships and have based it mainly on Beth Newingham's advice.   I have also used many of her resources. I gave the students choices of about 5-6 books that were on their level and had them rank their book choices.  I then paired students up based on similar interests.  Students then met, created their reading goals and began reading.  We have already worked this year on asking questions - whether called "thick" questions, "big" questions, or "teacher" questions.  They are working on creating these to discuss with their partners. When they are done reading, students will create independent book projects.  They will have a choice of 6 different projects to choose from.   I found most of these choices on Mrs. Renz's 4th Grade Site.  The few ways I would change it for next time (unfortunately that will be next year):
1. Do it earlier in the year because by providing the students with a list of books to look at, most students wanted to read them all at some point - not enough time at this point in the year.
2. Do it earlier in the year to get the students use to discussing books with another student.

If you give this a try or have done it in the past, let me know your thoughts. Happy Reading :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Teacher Appreciation Gifts

With Teacher Appreciation Week this week, the PTA has lots of events planned for the staff all week long - catered lunch, supply day, breakfast, gift card giveaway day, and hot beverage day (Starbucks!!).  It's been great so far.  However, many of the students don't realize that its Teacher Appreciation Week until it starts.  Today I joined the class for Morning Meeting to be asked by a couple of my students what I liked and needed so they could tell their parents for Teacher Appreciation Week.  I told them that they had known me for an entire school year and I'm sure they could come up with something.  Here is what my kids brainstormed:

Caffeine - Starbucks and Dr. Pepper
Chocolate - M&M's and Reese's
Respect, Good Listening

My favorite was added by a student with not much of a filter: "a boyfriend."

Gotta love them :)

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Education should be exercise; it has become massage.  ~Martin H. Fischer

School work should be just as challenging to the student in your class at the lowest level as it is to the student at the highest level.  We don't build muscle unless we push our self and exercise just as we won't build knowledge if we don't push our self to learn something new.  As teachers, it is our job to make sure this is happening for all students.  When I first starting teaching a lot of my professional development was focused around differentiation.  I have learned many strategies for AIG students and many strategies for EC students.  I have adapted them to use in my own class with a range of AIG students to EC students and everything in between. Two books that I have found very helpful are:

Both of these books are written by Susan Winebrenner.
Here are some resources that I have created for use in my classroom using strategies from Winebrenner's books and the various professional development opportunities I have had.  I'm only posting a few now with more to come at a later date.

Helpful Reading and Resources for Parents and Students - Posted this on my class website with resources to parents with kids at all different levels.
Study Buddy - Information for students to help provide support to one another
Problem Solver's Helper Guide - Use this with struggling math students to make sure they are following all the steps.
Factors and Arrays Quiz / Factors and Arrays Modified Quiz - These are examples of 2 quizzes I made.  I included the example that most of the class received and then the copy that the struggling math students received.  Both quizzes asses the same content.
Folder Math - I had a binder with extra practice or enrichment for students to work on if they finished their assigned cw.  They got to pick their own assignments; however, sometimes I had to guide them to make sure they chose appropriate choices.
Independent Reading Project (IRP) - This is an example of leveled assignments.  Not only were the assignments leveled (A,B,C) but students were also reading independent books that were specific to their interests and reading level.

Someone said....

Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theatre.  ~Gail Godwin