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:

Monday, October 13, 2014

MMI - 4th grade literacy centers

I've been posting about my weekly ELA plan using Wonders, and yesterday just finished my Wednesday routine description.  So I'm kind of getting ahead here, but everything I've made recently has been part of my Friday routine.  I've decided to make Friday a "Flex" day.  This means that we have a center-type day.  I'm sure there will be plenty of days where students have a must-do list, but the idea is for them to use this day to practice skills they need, while I work with small groups, or do guided reading.  It's a FLEX day, whatever we need is what we'll do.

Tara, over at Fourth Grade Frolics, has a great linky called Monday Made It.  When I first started blogging this summer, this linky gave me wonderful ideas and inspiration for my own classroom.  My Readbox and Quote board (see pics on "My Classroom" page) came from stalking other blogs that linked up on this site.  In the summer, Tara did this weekly, but now it's once a month.  That's the reason I'm jumping ahead a bit to Friday.  I do plan to elaborate more later with a "Friday" post.

So, even though I made my "Choose Your Challenge" board before school started, we just added our categories and items and started our Flex Friday recently.  The students love it, and did a great job of being on task.  

We are starting small, with only a few options.  But this will obviously grow.  The stars are for tougher challenges, so that our board suits all needs.  These items are laminated so that we can use dry-erase to change the options easily.  The categories will stay.  My favorite item (and the students) to share are the partner plays I learned about from another blog.  90 different partner plays, grouped by themes, that are quick 1 page, front and back, for students to use to practice fluency.

Partner Plays 4th-5th BUNDLE (a set of 90 2-person scripts
by Deb Hansen

This really is made-it 2 and 3, but I also made some center items for my Friday Flex.  They align to two skills we've covered, compound sentences and text features.

Please see my "Wednesday" blog post to learn more about our compound sentences.

My product on TpT

Here is a picture of a group of students working with the different sets last Friday:

The other center is for text structures.  Even though most students do well with this, after I gave the assessment, I let certain students know that they should fit this matching activity into their Flex time.

My product on TpT

Here is a picture of a student using these matching cards.  They are self-checking, so she is checking to make sure that each set (feature name, description, picture) has the same letter on the back when she flips them over.

So that's it for now.  Have a great Monday, I'm looking forward to checking out everyone's Monday Made-It links later today!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wednesday - Focus on Language

Before I begin on my Wednesday routine, I have to get something off my chest....

I started on TpT earlier this year, and felt strange about it.  This summer I started this blog, and felt weird about it.  I tried to be a closet TpTer and Blogger, but word got out.  While I realize that there is nothing wrong with either of these things, it's easier to put yourself out there when you DON'T know your audience.  Just recently, I discovered that teachers from the other two primary schools in our district were purchasing things from my store.  I reached out to let them know that I would be happy to share with my district colleagues, and all were gracious to say that they knew I worked hard and were happy to pay for my items.  I have very mixed emotions on this.  I'd love for anyone to share similar feelings to mine, so I know I'm not alone.  But really, I guess I just needed to say it.  So, I know my district colleagues are aware of my store, but if any of them are also following this blog, I just want to say "Thanks!".  And not for their purchases, but for their support.  I'm very lucky to work where I do!

Now, on to my Wednesday routine:

Instead of breaking up language into 5-10 minute per day fragments, which Wonders suggests, we just give it a day.  Well, minus our 10-minute writing and any finish-up work from our Tuesday skill.  This pretty much is like Tuesday's reading focus.  If it's a new skill, which it will be most of the time, we add a page to our DIY Resource Book (aka Interactive Notebook).  But first, I try to find some kind of springboard to lead into the lesson, or other activity.  

For last Tuesday, we learned about compound sentences.  I started by giving them 14 simple sentences that they had to pair up by related topic in a small group.  Then we discussed being able to combine them with a special word (later to be named conjunction).  I wrote FANBOYS on the board and wrote out the conjunction for each.  We put in the easy ones to start, and then I guided them through the tougher ones.  I wrote "because" on the board next to "for" and we discussed it being an old-fashioned word.  I also use a British accent when I read a sentence that uses "for".  Not sure why I relate British accents to old-fashioned words, but I do, and it helps the students.  Finally, we add the commas.  I like these separate because many students put these in AFTER the conjunction.  I try to stress that they belong where the pause goes when we combine.

Then we make our DIY page.  This allows for more practice opportunities.  

I feel that spending a quality day (or most of a day) teaching and practicing a language skill is a much better practice than super short fragmented parts.

My Wednesday night's homework is to read the weekly selection from the anthology book.  And no, we won't reread this in class...GASP!  I love the close reads in the anthology and workshop for in class reading practice (although we admittedly haven't done much of these yet with our slow speed start), but I can't justify spending as much time as would be needed reading aloud this story each week.  Especially since I tend to spend way too much time getting off track and going in depth when we read together.  

So next up is Thursday.  We do a little with the homework story, but then focus more in depth on writing.  Hope you come back for Thursday's post, and please leave some feedback on your thoughts about my "daily" posts.  This blog is a two way street.  I'm not here to suggest that what I do is best for all, I want to hear how others are making Wonders fit into their weeks.

In closing, my kids and I went to the local corn maze today.  It was a beautiful day.  I'm happy that I was able to get a decent photo of us (Kate - this was taken so that I can give you a family fall pic for our school's board!).

This year's maze's theme is "Frozen".  There are 4 different mazes that would total over 6 miles if you walked them all.  It is less than two miles from my house, and I'm ASHAMED to admit that this was my first time there, but not my last!

Have a wonderful week everyone! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tuesday - Focus on Reading

I'm blogging about how my weekly plan of integrating our new Wonders series is working.  I last posted about my Monday plan of Intros, Intros, Intros.  Next up is Tuesday.  But first, I finally posted pics on the "My Classroom" page, so feel free to check it out!

As I mentioned before, we start off with 10 minutes of writing each day.  I have a prompt for the students, and we focus on one of the 6 traits for each prompt.  Here is an example:

My students actually love any prompt that focuses on Voice, which I think is a hard trait for 4th graders.  Prompts like this are something that I model first, and then I recycle with a different topics from time to time.  Here is a student sample:  PLEASE READ THE BOTTOM, good for a laugh for sure!  And....Not sure why I'm on the list.  I'm not scary at all - I don't think:(

I've enjoyed finding tasks that lead into our daily lesson, whenever possible.  The day I planned to teach character traits, I had them list 10 people in their lives that they knew well, and then give one word to describe each person.

Now for Tuesday:

In a nutshell, I plan to do a mini-lesson that ties into a RL or RI standard.  We are again using interactive notebooks, but I've decided to rename mine "DIY Resource Book".  I use composition notebooks, and we divide the book in half, the back half is for language.  These books are easy to find the half way part because of the gap where the seam is.  Each half starts with a Table of Contents that we add to as we go.  I'm not using anyone's notebook pages, I've been making mine as I go.  That way they are just the way I like them!  Here is our Tuesday page from last week on Text Features (student sample in the picture in case you are wondering if I spelled "features" wrong).

The PLAN was to also use the close read in the workshop book to help integrate the reading skill.  Right now we are STILL in beginning-of-the-year slow motion mode.  Hopefully soon, the routines (and cutting and gluing) will go quicker and we can add that to our Tuesday.

We started using interactive notebooks mid-year last year, and I really like them.  This week I started making a big deal about students being able to check off the "I Can" statements on each page when they have demonstrated mastery of a topic.  This has helped encourage students who have had to try again on a particular skill.  I hope the excitement lasts!

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Monday Routine - Intros, intros, intros...

Before I begin, my teaching partner, Shane, has recently started a blog.  Unlike me, he has spent his entire career in 4th grade (20 years I think).  Like me, he is endlessly looking for ways to making teaching and learning more exciting and effective.  This year he is focusing solely on math.  I highly recommend heading over to his blog and checking out his posts.  I especially like his list of math review activities that he uses in his classroom.

Two weeks ago, we took half the afternoon to attend a professional development session to help us with our newly adopted ELA series, McGraw Hill Wonders.  Although the session was supposed to be focused around the online portion, our presenter started with an overview of the series.  She was an excellent presenter, but her take on how to structure the series into our weekly routine was only slightly more realistic than the series itself.  If you are using Wonders, which I assume you are if you've read this far, you know what I mean.

The students would have whiplash if we frantically covered so many facets of ELA in each day.  My schedule used to have ELA chopped up into a few smaller teaching blocks, but this year I have one solid 70 minute block.  Since I teach this three times each day, it's all I have to focus on.

Most days we start off with 10 minutes of writing in our spirals, but then we plan to go in depth in a different area each day of the week.  Mondays however, are different.  There are a lot of introductions this day.  I'm pretty exhausted at the end of the day Monday, and think this is how I would feel everyday if I followed the Wonders structure.

We spend about 10 minutes looking over the Essential Question for the week.  I project this on our Smartboard.  This is a great time to review and practice the speaking and listening goals.  I then go into our "Weekly Phrase" and mini biography.  This is something that I added.  I love quotes, and spent a day this summer pairing a quote (or proverb) with each week's theme.

Another 10 minutes is spent with the interactive read-aloud in Wonders.  I like the idea of working with students' comprehension of something they only hear, and can't read along.  I've tried to come up with a quick response for students after I read.  I give each a post-it note to write their response, and then stick up on the board.  (Below went with Week 2)  Students cover up their number with their post-it.  It then makes their answer anonymous to classmates once it's up on the board, and we can discuss answers.  Also, it's a quick way to see who's post-it is still needed.  I forgot to take a pic after the post-its were up:(

At this point, we usually take a GoNoodle break.  However, my first group usually needs this sooner. I just finally started using GoNoodle this year, and would highly recommend it.

Then I pass out their Weekly ELA sheet.  This is something I made to organize their spelling, vocab, reading log, and other goodies.  We spend a minute or two going over the parts, and a quick overview of the spelling focus for the week.

LAST THING is vocabulary.  If I'm able to stick to my sketched out timing for the above items, that leaves me with 20 minutes.  I use the online vocabulary interactive page in Wonders, and students complete a page I designed as we go.  We start with the "Example" and students try to use context clues to help figure out the word's meaning.

Next, we look over the "Routine" tab.  Students are encouraged to write down a definition for themselves that they like.  I've been impressed at how well students are coming up with good meanings for the words.  Then, we decide how the word is being used in the Example sentence, and add the word to our Vocab Wall, and they add it to the chart on their paper.

Believe it or not, I almost got everything done in the last two Mondays!  I had from 2-4 vocab words left in each class to finish up the next day.  I'm still spending more time than I should going over our ELA sheet and other routines, so I'm hopeful that we'll finish this coming Monday.

To my blog readers who are teaching Wonders, please feel free to let me know what you think, or what you are doing.  I created this blog in hopes of it being a vehicle for good discussion of implementing Wonders.

Next up...Tuesday.  A day we focus on using the Workshop story to learn or review RL or RI standards.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Currently - Greek and Latin Treat

Happy October everyone!  My favorite month.  It's not because it's my birthday month, but it's because of the beautiful fall colors that have started.  They usually peak right around my birthday though, Mother Nature's gift to me.  I'm not a fan of winter however, so it's bittersweet...

I am still planning to blog soon about my daily schedule using McGraw Hill Wonders.  Week 3 has been going well, and I've been remembering to take a few pictures to include in my posts.  Hopefully I can start on "Monday" tonight!

For now, I'm linking up with Farley, at Oh Boy 4th Grade, for her monthly Currently Linky.

T..R..E..A..T - My Greek and Latin roots product on TpT has been my best seller.  I'm sure it's because while most of my products are specific to 4th grade, this standard spans many grades.  Anyways, I've hit a milestone with this product, and am making it 50% off for a short time to celebrate.  It's only $2.25, and comes with worksheets, teaching presentation, and two sets of task cards.

I've had 31 positive feedback comments on this, and some of the latest ones have really brightened my day.  I'll admit that sometimes my own feedback on TpT purchases is done short and sweet, but I'm committed to making my comments more thoughtful from now on (I need to do several right now).  The best part of this TpT experience for me is feeling validated in my classroom creations.  I've always worked hard to create things for my classroom.  TpT allows me to share these items, and it's a great feeling to know that they are helping others, and are enjoyed by both teachers and students.

Have a wonderful day everyone!