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!