Sunday, December 7, 2014

MMI - using task cards for review

I'm linking up yet again with Tara, over at Fourth Grade Frolics, for her great linky called Monday Made It.

We've been using McGraw Hill's new reading series, Wonders, this year.  In my opinion, the best part has been the literature, and the tie in with the workshop story and paired reading selection each week.  The list of things I'm unhappy about is too long to list here.  For the second unit, we decided to start creating weekly selection tests again that are similar to ones we made for our previous series.  I've also made consistent vocabulary pages and question pages for the workshop story.  We've done these for 3 weeks now, and I've been happy with them!

We use the web pages that mirror the workshop vocabulary pages.  We look for context clues in the sample sentences and come up with definitions to write on the page above, and then sort the words in the chart based on how the word is used in the sample sentences.  We discuss how words can be used in different ways, and how different forms of the word create uses that would fall under other parts of speech.  I keep these words up on my vocab wall throughout the unit (you can see pics under "My Classroom" page).  The students then complete the back page, which is shown below.

Using the workshop story to practice QAR
This is my variation on QAR (question-answer relationship).  I think it's good for students to think about the different types of questions, and know how to successfully answer each.  This past week was the first time that I didn't have one question for each of the different types.  The students did very well.  It's hard to make a "think and search" or come up with an inferencing question in general for nonfiction.

For the selection tests, we've incorporated a variety of questions that cover all of the standards we've covered so far.  The nice thing about making your own materials is knowing that the students should be able to have success on every question.  I also like have a variety of multiple choice and short answer.  The last question ties the paired selection in the literature anthology to the main selection.  I also have coded the standards for each question to help with our standards-based grading....
 It will be so nice to have all of these done for next year!

I love task cards for many reasons.  I've amassed quite a collection that I've both bought and made.  There's a free product in my store I made about using them.  For our Friday center-type routine, I came up with a way to use these for review.  It's called "Five in a Row, and GO!" 

After I've covered a topic that I have task cards for, they are added to this basket.  Each set is in a baggie with an answer key.  Like "Go Fish," students take turns drawing a task card and then answering.  Another member of the group checks their answer.  If they are right, they keep the card.  If they are wrong, all the cards they have go back into the pile and they start over.  The logic is that if they can successfully answer five in a row for any particular skill, they should understand the concept.  The other nice thing about this is that students can join at any time, which is helpful since I'm constantly pulling students to work with on this day.

 Here are some boys playing this with my fragment, sentence, run-on cards.

My daughter got an idea from Pinterest and we made mugs for the special ladies in her life.  They came out great!  She did the leg work, and painting the snowmen faces.  I helped write the names on them.

And my mom helped me to get my house in the Christmas spirit.  This is such a cozy room now, that I've spent most of my day here today getting work done!

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Toolbar Bookmarking Tip

Trying to make a "quick" post before heading out.  If I can do this quicker, I'll post more.  I'm linking up with Teaching Trio for their Linky called Technology Thursday. 


The Special Education teacher that I co-teach with noticed my bookmarks and asked about it.  She later said she loves it now that she has done it, so I thought this might be something worth sharing.  First of all, I use Firefox primarily as my web browser, but I'm sure this can be adapted for any browser.  

For my commonly used websites, I save them to my bookmarks toolbar.  However, I quickly ran out of space.  So I started abbreviating the names to save space.  Then, I noticed that if I deleted the preset page name altogether, just the favicon would be added to my toolbar.  Now I have many sites on my toolbar, and still have some room.  I bet you can recognize many of my bookmarked sites just by the favicon.

So, next time you want to save a bookmark to your toolbar, just change the drop down choice to "bookmark toolbar" and delete the name.  See below.

Happy Thursday everyone.  I did it!  Made a post in about 20 minutes:)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Five for Friday 11-28

It's been a while since I've linked up with Kacey over at Doodle Bugs for her Five for Friday link-up.

Connecting with the Community with Persuasive Writing

Last year, one of my students' choices for opinion writing was to persuade me to visit a business in our town.  Several students chose this, and they did a great job.  This year I decided to make this a bigger writing task for all students.  As an added incentive, I told the students that I would deliver their paragraphs to the businesses, and they would likely display them.  At a conference last summer, one person talked about the importance of students writing for more than just an audience of one (the teacher).  It made complete sense.  The other ELA teacher and I finally finished up this project, and delivered over 100 student essays to over 25 businesses!  I live in the small town where I teach, and was excited today to see them already displayed in some places.

We gave them a green letter to hang with the paragraphs to explain them.  I'm excited to make this an annual project, and am already trying to think of another project that will allow students to feel "published".

No Crowds on Black Friday at the Park!

No Black Friday shopping for me!  Instead, my kids and I took the dog for a nice walk around Evergreen Lake at the wonderful Metropark that is just a few miles from our home.  We didn't come across one other person on our 1.5 mile loop around the lake!

Decoding Fun with Nonsense Words

 If you've read my others posts, you'll know that my Friday is a "center" type day.  I've loved this opportunity to be able to pull groups of students for a variety of purposes.  I'm constantly adding to my "Choose Your Challenge" board of choices for the students.  I finally got something for our decoding choice.  I made a series of beginning and ending sound sticks that students can put together to make nonsense words (with an occasional real word).  I adapted this from a flip book I made for my own children growing up.  I put great care into making sure that no inappropriate words can be made with the placement of any two sticks!


Unlocking Cell Phones!

Cell phones for kids: I caved in and got my daughter a phone when she entered 7th grade.  I always said she'd get one when she needed it, and cross country every day after school seemed like the need was finally here.  I put her on a Virgin Mobile plan.  It is a great deal!  If you set up auto payments, it is $30 a month for unlimited text and data.  Of course the lower end Smartphone I got her wasn't what she wanted, and I again caved and upgraded her to an iPhone when she broke her arm the following summer.  Now my son is getting to that age.  The downside of Virgin Mobile's cheap monthly plan is that you pay A LOT for the phone (price of not having a contract).  Today I researched unlocking phones.  We have a couple of other iPhones around the house that are tied to Verizon, and have been keeping them as back-ups.  Well, today I paid $45 to have it unlocked so that I can use it with Virgin Mobile.  Hopefully this works, it will save me a lot of money.  Here's the site I used, in case anyone wants to check it out.  *I'm not being compensated by anyone for anything in this post!

Bloglovin' Feed - A Wonderful Start to My Day!

I love Thanksgiving, but this year was a bit rough for me.  Nothing big, but had to deal with some family drama that was for nothing.  One of them involves use of FB.  I love how FB allows me to keep in touch with family and friends near and far.  However, people use Facebook in very annoying ways.  I can overlook annoying, but there's something I can't overlook.  People read something shocking on FB, and share without thinking or fact checking.  Fake stories are made up with an agenda to attack some group (religious, political, or other).  This propaganda needs to be stopped, not passed along.  It divides us as a people, and isn't productive in anyway.

What I've loved about my entrance in the blogging world recently is that everything I've read HAS been productive or positive.  Thank you to all the bloggers that I follow that give me something to read each day that is worth my time and inspiring!  

Monday, November 10, 2014

MMI - Interactive Book Browsing

I'm linking up yet again with Tara, over at Fourth Grade Frolics, for her great linky called Monday Made It.

Before I begin, I'll add that I made new MMI buttons to match my blog.  Super happy with the way they turned out.  It was a great opportunity for me to play around more with the instant alpha tool in Pages.
For those of you that have read my previous posts, it might seem like I'm mentioning my Readbox a bit too much.  If you haven't read them, my last post was about teaching students to be "Active Readers" to launch my book group format.  You can check it out here.  Well, I think this will be my last post about it.  What I'm sharing in this post is the way I figured out how to let my students browse the available books for them to read in small groups.  

Last year I put a lot of effort into a book that the students could look through.  There was A LOT of time involved because I wanted to level the books, provide a summary, give AR point value, and direct them to the correct bin.  The biggest problem with this was adding a new novel set...  Now, students can use an interactive Keynote presentation.  Adding a new novel is as simple as adding a new slide to the presentation.

This is the first slide, and where they begin.  I did not come up with these color choices!  They click on whatever color marks their reading range and they go to the slide that shows all books for that level.

Obviously, one more book and I'm out of room for this level.  Then, when they see a book they are interested in, they touch it to go to a slide with more information.

The book slides have all of the information that I had in my book from last year.  The other nice option I took advantage of was saving as a PDF and emailing to my students.  In a PDF, the buttons are all clickable.  So students can browse the collection from anywhere.  Of course it looks nicer on the iPad screen.  I'd like to thank my teaching partner Shane for helping me figure out this great way to organize my novel sets.  If you haven't yet checked out his blog, head on over to Math is FUNdamental and see what he's been up to.

On Tuesday my husband turns 50!  Yesterday I had a party for him.  It was a huge success, and he had a wonderful time.  We had 32 people and a ridiculous amount of food.  I'm grateful to my amazing sister and sister-in-law who helped in so many ways.  I tried my best to snap photos, but few came out well at all:(

I really wanted a nice picture of me (on left), my dad, and my sister.  My dad just kept making a stupid smile.  Oh well.

Here's a great picture of my handsome husband (on the right), his older brother (who doesn't look happy about this picture), and his 2 nephews in the middle.  My husband is 9 years older than me, and he is the baby in the family.  Therefore, most of his nieces and nephews are very close to my age and insist on calling me Aunt Mary.

As usual, I've made many more new things for my classroom.  But I haven't had the time to polish them and get them TpT ready.  As my phone cha-chinged earlier today (notifying me of a TpT sale) my son began strategizing for me.  He told me that I should bundle some of my products.  I let him know that I do have a few bundles, but he got me thinking.  Lately, a few of my language products have been doing well, and I've had some people buying several different products.  So, I decided to make a bundle of my most popular products.

My new ELA bundle

At least I got a chance to use some of my newly purchased Ashley Hughes clip art and backgrounds! You can check out this product in my TpT store.  My son just snuck up on me and saw I was creating a bundle and said, "I'm proud of you mom."  He's so funny.

Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

No Prep Book Groups

After I reread my post, and looked at the title, I am adding in this disclaimer.  There is A LOT of prep work that went into creating everything in this post.  The "no prep" refers to allowing students to continue reading and engaging in book groups for the remainder of the year with no further work on my part:)

I've always loved the idea of literature groups with students.  What fun is seeing a movie by yourself?  Same goes with books!  Everything's better when you can share the experience with another.  

However, I've never been a fan of overstructured literature circles.  Giving everyone a "job" takes away from the authenticity of the experience, and doesn't promote students to contribute in natural ways.  Adult book clubs don't assign "roles", so why should we?  Plus, it's a lot more work on the teachers part!  Instead, I teach the students to be "active readers".  This process allows students to mark and share parts of the text that they reacted to while reading.

I've used Post-Its, somewhat, for the last few years since reading the book Strategies That Work.  Since becoming a blog reader this past summer, I've seen many others using Post-Its in a similar way to what I've been doing.  This year I decided to refine this even more.

Students are given a Post-It that has these marks on them for reference, and are encouraged to keep a small supply of Post-Its in the front or back of their text.

After we finished Unit 1 of our Wonder series, we read The Lemonade War together as a class.  We would read a chapter a day in class, and they would read a chapter for homework.  As I read the in-class chapters aloud, I would stop and grab a Post-It and make a mark and stick in my book.  Students would see me do this, grab their own Post-It, and do the same.  When I'd show them my mark, they would get excited if they used the same mark as me, which most often did.

** It is important to also tell them that your suggested marks are not the only marks they can use, but just common ones.  At one point in my reading aloud, I stopped to make a mark and told the students that my mark was not one that was listed.  Students started marking too, and one said out loud, "Don't do it!" (referring to the character in the book).  I quickly showed the class what I had written, and it was those EXACT SAME WORDS.  Cool moment for all of us.

Then for homework, they would be encouraged to mark about 3 parts in the chapter they reacted to.  Then the following day, I would have them use their marks to guide a discussion in small groups.   Like with me, students would get excited to see that they often times ended up making the same marks in the same spots!

Once we finished the novel, my Readbox was opened for business.  The students were so excited to finally be able to use this.  My Readbox houses novels in sets of 4.  I've created an interactive Keynote on my iPad that sits on top for students to use in selecting novels at their reading level.  I also keep a supply of Post-Its on top of my Readbox.  My anchor chart was also moved above my Readbox.

It has been 2 weeks since I opened my Readbox, and I am seeing great results.  Students are enjoying reading, reading MORE, and doing better on AR quizzes for the books they are reading in groups.

My next project is to create a place where students can review Readbox books they've read, so that others can use these reviews to also help select novels.

Enjoy your weekend everyone!  I'm off to finish getting my house ready for 30-40 people tonight to celebrate my husband's big 5-0!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Thursday - Focus on Writing

First, all of my previous writing products are half off, and I've added new writing items for free!  I'm pleased, but still amazed, that my venture into TpT earlier this year, and blogging this summer, has been so successful.  There is no better feeling than knowing that others are valuing your hard work and reading your words.  I just gained my 75th follower on TpT, and my number of blog readers is growing too.  I'm joining other bloggers in their policy of making all newly added products 1/2 off, or free, for the first few days for followers.  I've enjoyed this myself for the TpT sellers I follow!

Daily Writing

As I've mentioned before, we do 10 minutes of writing MOST mornings.  I try to keep these writing pieces short and enjoyable, and so far the students have been seeming to enjoy them.  Our Wonders series discusses the 6 traits during the Smart Start, and so I've been integrating this more visibly this year.  Of course the 6 traits are something we all teach, but I liked explicitly teaching these traits.  They are displayed in my classroom, students have mini posters in their writing spirals, and each day we focus on one trait during our 10 minute writing.  As a thanks to my readers, I'm making my TpT product 1/2 off for the next few days.  It includes a 17-slide teaching presentation, posters for hanging, mini posters for students, and writing spiral sticker label template.

See my "Tuesday" post to see a sample morning prompt and a pretty hilarious student sample. I've just added a FREE editable product on TpT that uses my writing theme to display morning writing prompts.  Enjoy, and please leave some feedback and let me know what you think!

Free on TpT

I also created posters for the three main 4th grade writing types (plus one for linking words and phrases) and just uploaded the mini-posters version for the students to refer to (these are put into the back of their writing spirals).  For my own room, I uploaded these to Vistaprint and used a Groupon to get these printed onto 18x24 posters to hang in my classroom (see pic in "My Classroom" page).  I've just put the posters, which are also FREE, into TpT.  

Free on TpT

 In order to hang, they would have to be the large size.  I'm sharing these through my Vistaprint account, in case anyone is interested, at the bottom of this post.  I do not get any commission from doing this, just thought it was neat that I could share this way.  If you check often, and wait for this item to be 50% off, they could be as cheap at $6 per poster.

NOW...for Thursday.  I realize that I need to shorten my posts! This will be quick.

We don't do 10 minute writing on Thursday, since we will focus more in depth on writing.  We do spend part of this day with some housekeeping items: AR on anthology story read for homework, partner/small group work with the back side of our ELA sheet (see "Monday" post), and hopefully eventually read the paired selection in the anthology text.

The rest of the time will be spent working on writing a more structured writing piece that is either informative, narrative, or opinion.  I'll be honest, so far we haven't gotten far with this.  We are working on an opinion piece that will hopefully be done next week.  If it comes out like the vision in my head (I have some pretty grand visions) I'll be sure to give more details in a later post.

So, that's all for now, hope everyone has a great weekend!

My Vistaprint Items: