Thursday, April 28, 2016

Five For Friday

Hello friends!  You know what I like better than ice cream and Starbucks?  Fridays!  And here it is, Friday again. Yay!  Thank you Doodle Bugs Teaching for hosting Five For Friday. Here's our five fun events from this week.

This girl!  L.O.V.E!!  This is my granddaughter and Lindsey's daughter.  She is our oldest grandbaby and she turned 6 this week! Ack! SIX!  I can't even stand it.  How do they grow so fast?  We had so much fun at her birthday party, and then we went....girls have lunch at the American Girl's Bistro the following day.  What a great way to kick off the week!

The REAL Scaredy Squirrel....
You may have read the book Scaredy Squirrel, but he's got nothing on this little guy.  We frequently have squirrels at school....around school....pretty much everywhere.  They have been known to get up in the ceiling, come in the doors and visit, snack on apple cores thrown in the outside garbage cans...and just have a great time at school. They're kind of our unofficial mascot.  This little guy....a scared by all those scary know the kind with two legs that walk all around the school all day.  So he climbed the walls of the center stairwell and got stuck up on the ledge under the glass roof.  Oh boy did that stir things up around school!  Hopefully, he will figure out how to get down tonight when everyone is gone.  Poor little guy!

What have you heard about the weather in Washington?  Well, just to set you straight...this is what the weather is like in Washington....and it all happened this week!  I'm ready for flip-flop-everyday weather, aren't you?  Don't tell me if you already have would just make me sad.  :-(

Fifth Graders!!!! Don't you love them? This week we read the book "Plastiki" about an environmentalist who built a boat out of 12000 plastic milk cartons and sailed the world.  He wanted to bring awareness to the HUGE issue of plastic floating garbage in the ocean, and what it is doing to sea life.  Did you know that there are at least five HUGE...miles and miles long....floating garbage clumps in the oceans?  True!  Well the kiddos in my 5th grade groups have the problem solved. When they grow up, Mr. J is going to invent a huge ship with a scooper to go scoop all that garbage out of the ocean. Miss B and Miss S are going to go into marketing.  They are going to let the whole world know of this problem.  Isn't that cool?  Just love it when kids get so passionate about making a difference in our world.  We highly recommend "Plastiki" by the way.  It's a great book!

And finally this week, I am getting things ready for next week by prepping leveled passages sets.  In intervention groups we try to support what the classroom teachers are doing as much as possible! So....I'm using these leveled passage sets a lot.  They are on topics that the primary teachers typically teach, they have 6 different guided reading levels...and they all have the same vocabulary!  So I can teach the vocabulary to everyone, but everyone can read about the topic at their own level.  Makes life so much easier and reading instruction so much more effective.  Love them!

That's all from our little corner of the world.  I'm off to read your posts and see what you all have been up to! Have a great weekend and here's hoping for flip flop weather!


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Main Idea AND Author's Purpose

Hello friends:) Today, I wanted to hop on and tell you about how second graders are learning about main idea and author's purpose this week. If you have been with us for a while, you know that we taught our kiddos how to find the main idea of a text earlier in the year. You can read more about how we did that HERE.

Now, we are ready to add finding and writing down our supporting details. We are also adding in how to find the author's purpose for writing the text and how we know. It's a lot to cram into two weeks but here's a peek at how we do it.

We start with author's purpose first. This is usually pretty easy for most of them to grasp, which is why I like to put it first:) Here's a look at the anchor we use for that...

We spend the first day sorting different books and titles under each category. With a little practice they pick it up really quickly. Once we have done this we are ready to move on to supporting details. I teach the kiddos to think of the main idea as an umbrella. It's great to have a big umbrella (the main idea) but if you don't have a good, long handle (supporting details) your umbrella is going to be hard to use. This is also the same analogy I use when teaching opinion.

We LOVE these little science readers! They are so great when needing to work with informational text. We spend the first day talking about the main idea and supporting details. The kiddos then try with partners to find the main idea of the text, we used Marvelous Mammals, and try to see if they can find details in the text to support the main idea. Normally, we would do this as a whole class but we are running short on time so we have to speed it up a bit.

The kiddos used this graphic organizer which you can find in the Amy Lemons Main Idea pack, click HERE to get. This organizer only requires them to find three details, which is a bit easier for them to start with. When the kiddos paired up I had them pair low/high. Kiddos who have a good idea of main idea were paired with those who may be struggling a bit. I will say the this group is filled with kind kiddos who LOVE to help each other which makes partnering up a lot easier!

Once the kiddos have had a chance to fill out the organizer, we come back together and go through it. I model for them how I find supporting details and I also model how random facts that aren't connected to the main idea shouldn't be used. Every class has got the kiddo that shouts out a completely not connected detail! HA! I tried to nip it in the bud.

The next day, we were ready to put together both ideas, main idea and author's purpose. We also worked on four supporting details instead of three. The kiddos worked in partners again, not the same partners as the previous day, that the kiddo's used the book Ladybug Life Cycles.

Here are some of the hiccups we ran into to...

The main idea has to be more than "about lady bugs." We had to have a LONG chat about writing in complete sentences.

We can't copy the text EXACTLY. We've been working on this ALL year!

We need to tell details that are ACTUALLY about the main idea..."Ladybugs are all ladies" Um. No.

"The author is trying to persuade us to like ladybugs because he wrote a book to teach us about ladybugs." PALM TO FOREHEAD.

The next day we made a main idea myth poster. I put ALL of these examples on a poster, sorry I forgot to take a picture, and we went through them. It was like a "do this, not that" poster. It was pretty effective. We took an assessment on Friday with the graphic organizer shown above (with four details) and a Scholastic News. They did a pretty great job! There are a few, aren't there always, that are still confused on the whole idea but we've got another whole week to keep practicing.

So there you have it! Hopefully, something here sparks an idea for you to teach your kiddos about main idea and author's purpose! I hope you all have a great week!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Five for Friday!

Happy Friday friends! I hope that you are all having a wonderful week! We are linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for some Five for Friday fun!

We have been working hard this week on our thank you letters for our Donor's Choose project. None of our donors requested letters but I just can't let my kiddos go without writing any. We are working on writing some letters to the donors that we do know. They have been taking this quite seriously!

I caught this today. This guy is after my teacher heart for sure! Most of the kiddos rush to the computers or iPads when they are finished. This guy chose to sit and read his book. He was SO focused! I LOVE their love for reading! I love it when I see them make the choice on their own. He's not the first and only one to do it but he is usually a computer rusher. It's so nice to see him focus on reading:)

Anyone who knows me, or who has read our blog in the past, knows I love sharks. Well, we are working on opinion writing this trimester and I am so excited to be able to educate my kiddos on sharks and their importance. I found this really cool website,, which is all about educating children on the importance of sharks. We are working on this prompt and the kiddos are H.O.O.K.E.D! The kiddos are going to state their opinion on the prompt and support it with information we are learning from this website. LOVE!

We have had lovely weather up here in the Seattle area! It has been sunny and in the 80's. These kiddos got to spend time during the week fishing. Their daddy took them, along with one of my besties son, while I was at work. Boy, did they have fun! They definitely take after their daddy!

It's Earth Day! If you are looking for some extra reading for your kiddos, check out our Earth Day freebie! This is a set of leveled passages, levels A-I, as well as text-dependent questions, vocabulary and sight word practice. To check it out click the picture or click HERE.

Well I'm off to work on my baby girl's 6th birthday party, which is Saturday. The only thing I have done so far is order the cupcakes. Yikes! I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tuesday's Tip - Drum Those Syllables!

Do you have intermediate students who have difficulty breaking multi-syllable words into parts, but would think "clapping" the syllables or using Elkonin boxes to be babyish?  Well, here is something that works and has the added "cool" factor that even 5th grade boys will love!  Get yourself some drumsticks!

You see, I work with some older students who aren't able to use the "chunking" strategy to decode words, because they lack the ability to hear the syllables in words. And memorizing rules for syllables? Forget about it! That would go over like a lead balloon!  They just need some practice though, and they'll be on their way. So what's a teacher to do? Go shopping of course!

The first idea was to get some drums and drum away.  Too noisy.  The second idea was to get the drumsticks and drum on the table.  Since my teeny tiny office is separated from my teaching partner's teeny tiny office by a thin accordian curtain, the noise we would make drumming on a drum or on the table, wasn't going to work.  Walmart to the rescue! While perusing the clearance aisle looking for things I just had to have (who cares if I didn't know what to do with it), I found these awesome silicone coasters for $1.00!  That makes a teacher's heart happy right there.  They are PERFECT for drum pads!  Ha!  Next came the drumsticks.  These are Kidsticks and I got them from Amazon. Yay! So we were all set.

Today, we started drumming out the syllables in words.  Oh my goodness!  You should've seen the 5th grader's eyes light up!  "We get to use those????" they said!  You betcha!  (It felt so very Ron Clark-ish to be drumming away, by the way!) So we happily drummed out words like expectations, determination, prosecution, revolution, patriots, declaration, Boston, and many more! (Yes, they are studying the American Revolution in their classes.) Since they really only needed a little boost in this area, they started "getting it" very quickly!  Did it apply to their reading?  You bet it did!  Right away they were much more successful when they decoded multi-syllable words in the book we were reading!  Wow!  Immediate results is always a win in my book! I'm sure we will have to practice many more times though, since they love it so much!  The students in all the other grades who didn't get to use them today, were so disappointed when they saw them sitting on the counter.  I guess tomorrow, all of the grades will have to get to use them, or we might have a reading mutiny on our hands!

So if your kiddles need some extra practice with segmentation...either by syllable or phonemes, go get yourself some drumsticks and some drum mean silicone coasters, and get with the beat!  On a side note, if you can't find silicone coasters on the clearance aisle at Walmart, a kneeling pad from the garden section of the dollar store works fabulous too!  And who knows, you might discover you have the future rock star drummer in your class! (Just be sure to make him or her promise you a cut of future wages as said rock star drummer! Ha!)

There you go!  A quick, engaging, fun and effective idea for teaching syllabication!  Happy Teaching!


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Five For Friday

Well lookie here!  My best here again!  And it's a very special Friday because our Spring Break starts at 4:00!  Woohoo!  So here's a little Five For Friday to celebrate!  Thank you to Doodle Bugs Teaching for hosting!

This week's theme?  Things we get excited about!

This is Mike Mulligan Steam Shovel.  Boy were we excited when he showed up!  You see, there is a tiny little piece of property that our school parking lot sort of wraps around.  We have been waiting for yeeeeaaaarrrrs for someone to buy it and make it into a community center, or at least a Starbucks with maybe a deli or teriyaki place attached...or maybe a wine bar for after hours! Well finally....the day arrived!  Mike Mulligan Steam Shovel showed up and we went rushing over to see what he was going to make....and when I say we I really mean we made the custodian rush over and find out. Anywho....drum roll is going to  Wah wah wah!  Bummer.  But at least the kiddles are having a great time watching Mike Mulligan work.  Pretty fun to watch....even if it isn't a Starbucks.  :)  :)

And it's the little (or maybe large) things I tell ya!  This giant plastic cow makes my teacher heart excited and happy! She lives at a local grocery store.  Sometimes she is in the dairy aisle...sometimes she is in the meat aisle...which I'm sure freaks her out.  This week, she was grazing amongst the tulips.  So who cares? Me.  I'd like to bring her with me and put her in the courtyard of our school!  I know the kiddles would get so excited and would LOVE her, and she would love all of the attention.  Do you think the store people would notice if  I sort of slipped her in my expandable grocery tote as I walk out?

We teachers get so excited when we discover a new book that is just perfect for a lesson on....well you name it!  So I was excited to get this book in the mail this week.  It is PERFECT for teaching the littles all about using text clues and evidence to predict, infer, teach the genre of mystery, and lots more.  Who Done It?  by Olivier Tallec...check it out if  you teach littles.

The Annual Staff vs. Fifth Graders Hockey Game....always gets our school excited!  It is so much fun and the teachers always win.....which is a shock because face it...the fifth graders are in much better shape!  This year was a little sad though, because our amazing P.E. teacher who started the tradition and makes it The MOST Amazing Fun every year, is moving to another school.  Pfffft!  Seems he wants to go work at the brand new school our district will open this Fall.  Who would want to leave our awesome staff for a brand new school with state of the art facilities, I ask you? Well, this year's score was mighty close.....Fifth graders 11, Teachers 29!  Woohoo!

FAMILY....always gets me excited.  This week I got to spend time with my 5 year old granddaughter helping her make a Fairy Garden at her house.  We already made one at my house, but she needed one at her house too, of course.  She had great ideas and it turned out great, don't you think?  Kids and Fairy much fun!

So there you go!  It was a week to get excited about.  And now I'm going to get excited about Spring Break because it is FINALLY here!  Woot! Woot!

Have a great weekend everybody!


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Let's Make Reading Fun Again! Here's How!

Is reading drudgery or fun for our kids?  I've been pondering this a lot lately.  With state testing about to begin and all the push to get those CCSS learned, I can see the look of drudgery on the kiddos' faces.  It makes me sad.  As teachers we have to be all rah rah for higher standards, but which of us in our hearts hasn't said...all this pushing is crazy!??  They are kids after all!  If we are honest with ourselves, it is a constant struggle between pushing "rigor" and nurturing the love of reading and learning in our students, isn't it?

 I met a former student today at the grocery store.  He was the checker....all grown up!  He didn't go to college, he's not going to be a physicist or head of a billion dollar computer company, but he is happy!  He has a plan for his life!  He says he doesn't need to be rich and that he makes enough money to do what he wants to do in life with opportunities to advance.  He didn't do well with reading when he was in school, but he graduated.  And did you catch the most important part....HE IS HAPPY!  After all, isn't that what we want for our students?  To grow up and be happy with the plan THEY have made for their lives, not that someone else told them they had to do?  Well....that all gets me back to the point that reading...and school...and learning...should be fun first of all!  It should make kids happy!  Even when they have to struggle through a math problem or a should be a good struggle...the kind that makes you happy that you didn't give up and worked through it.....because you WANTED to!

And that all brings me around to the ideas I'd like to share today.  Maybe they will help you bring the fun back to reading.....or maybe....they will give you permission to think about making learning fun first of all.

Many years ago, a wonderful teacher at a conference, (whose name I have long forgotten....apologies!!!!), suggested giving kids touchstones that matched the book you were reading with them.  These are little trinkets or dealybobs, or whatnots...that help them remember the story.  I loved that idea.  Something they could keep that would remind them of the story whenever they saw the touchstone.  I've done that over the years with great success, and since then the ideas have melded together with other great strategies for using realia in many ways.  Now I am careful to bring in real stuff for "hooks" at the beginning of a reading lesson, or touchstones to remember the story, or even real stuff for projects that follow up on the story.  The point is, it makes reading fun....and the kids understand then, that reading isn't just about finding the main idea and details, or answering a question with evidence!  Yes, I know that is all important, but we're trying to add the fun back here, too. First of all and most of all....reading's something we do for fun!  And it's something we do because we want to! The rest will come along. So here are some things that we have done in reading intervention groups lately.

Hook 'em in!

5th graders were about to read  a "procedural text" about how real maple syrup is made.  Before reading, we had a little taste of REAL maple syrup....not the kind we all buy in the plastic bottles.  I just told them it was syrup at first....most liked it even though it tastes completely different than what they are used to.  "It tastes like it has coffee in it" they said.  Then I explained what it really was.  Were they hooked?  You bet!  They voraciously read the book, and even the ones who have great difficulty attending to the text well enough to remember and discuss it, were hyper focused! Ha!  WIN!!!  After reading it, they had the greatest debate about whether it was better than Mrs. Butterworth's!  Oh yes....we went on and worked on the standard that we needed too, but it was fun for them.

Give Them a Touchstone!

2nd grade groups were reading variations of The Three Little Pigs.  I use squeaky pigs, and ducks, and frogs, and just about any squeaky animal I can find....with my groups.  The kids LOVE them!! Yep, the squeaks are annoying, but that's why they love them! We were working on "attending carefully to the whole word so we don't make silly mistakes"....a common issue with students who struggle in reading.  We use them to squeak when our reading partner makes an error that he or she doesn't self-correct.  So much fun!  But this time, I gave them their own squeaky pig to take home.  It reminds them to "Be like the smart pig and don't make silly mistakes."  We think the pigs who used straw and sticks made a silly mistake. We don't want to make silly mistakes in our saying a for the, or come for came. Fun?  You bet!  Memorable?  You know it!

Give them an "If you want to" project

3rd grade groups were going to be reading a book from a humorous series called The Fixit Family. In this book, they are trying to fix the bird feeders so the squirrels can't get all of the bird food!  Ha! I can relate to that in real life!  Before showing them the book and before reading, I gave them a baggie full of bird seed, but didn't tell them what it was. (Our students don't have a lot of experience with things like this.)  It took awhile and some prompting, but they finally figured out what it was. I asked them how they thought it might connect to the book we would read that day.  They had lots of predictions and boy were they thinking!  Were they engaged and ready to read?  You bet!  Once again, this group devoured the book to see if their predictions were right. And yes, we did work on our standard/learning target too. At the end of reading groups, I sent the bird seed home with them with directions that "if  you want to, you can make a bird feeder and put this in it at your house, but watch out for squirrels!"  You would have thought I had given them a baggie full of candy!  And the stories they told about the bird feeders they made? Priceless!

Another "If you want to" project

5th graders are reading a series about art and artists.  This book is about a sculptor who uses toothpicks to make some amazing creations.  For this group, I gave them each a box of toothpicks and a little bottle of glue before bringing out the story.  Once again, I asked the group to talk about how they thought the two things were connected to a book we would read.  They came up with some wacky ideas I must say, but they were engaged.  The book is amazing in itself, as the man makes the Golden Gate Bridge and other fantastic things from toothpicks.  After our lesson was finished, they got to take the toothpicks and glue home to try it out for themselves...."if they wanted to."  Of course they all did, and they found out it is a lot harder than it looks!

So there are four ideas to get you started.  Do you see how engaging and fun reading becomes when you bring in "real stuff?"  If you are still not convinced to do it on a regular basis, here are some more reasons for doing it.

1. It lowers the affective filter so the learning can get into the brain easier.
2. It highly engages and motivates the reader.
3. It "hooks 'em in" to stories and books.
4. It connects reading to real life.
5. It helps kids see that reading can be a springboard to lots of fun projects and other things.
6. It begins to turn around negative attitudes towards reading (especially in strugglers)!

So what do you think?  Is it worth the few dollars it might cost (use your PTA grant) and the extra minutes to put things in baggies to show kids that first of all....reading is fun?  I think so!  Give it a try.  You have permission to make reading fun again!

Happy teaching and big smiles to you for all you do!