Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday's Tip - An Easy and Cheap Way to Prevent Summer Slide and a FREEBIE!

Hey there teacher friends! We've all heard the stats of what happens when kids don't read over the summer....the dreaded summer slide!  We've been told by the experts that a child need only read six books over the summer to prevent the slide.  But what if they don't have books that are just right for them, or any books at all?  We would all love to buy 6 books or more to send home with our kids as a summer gift, but that's a lot of money.  Here's a way to provide "just right" reading for your students that's much cheaper....use leveled passages!

Today I began making Summer Reading Practice Packets for the students in my reading groups.  I am focusing on sending home packets at a "just right" level for the first and second graders that I work with.  Included in the packet is a mix of fiction and non-fiction passages that are exactly matched to the student's independent level.  It's such an easy way to provide reading practice that they can read all by themselves.  Also included is a Reading Bingo sheet with lots of different ways and places to read, just to up the fun! When I pass the packets out, I also show them the awesome gift bag full of surprises..no you can't peek.... and goodies that they each will receive when they return the finished packet to me in the fall. They love it, and best of all, they have reading practice that will help prevent the summer slide.  If you need a summer packet cover or a bingo sheet, you can get free copies HERE. If you need leveled passages, you can check some out HERE.

Hope this idea inspires you to send home "just right" reading practice for your students!


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Let's Learn About Ocean Animals!

Hello friends:) It's my favorite time of year! No...not summer...I DO love that too! It is time for our ocean animal research projects and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the research the kiddos can do this time of year. We spend A.L.L. year getting ready for this moment! Now, we can take all we know about writing and non-fiction text and actually USE the skills altogether to demonstrate our growth! Woohoo! I shared on my last Five for Friday that our team got ready by decorating our WHOLE pod! Click HERE to see that picture. Well, naturally that has to carry into our classroom. I add the projects that the kiddos do around the room as they do them. So, that means right now our room isn't as decorated as our pod, but we are getting there!

We've got our shark KWL posted! We also wrote what we really want to learn about in these super cute portholes from Falling Into First's Ocean pack.

Then we started right in. We start with the 6 Kingdoms of Living Things. Almost all the living things on our classification are found in the ocean, since that is our focus. This is a LONG pictorial, generally spread across two days, but what the kiddos take away from it is amazing! They soak up so much information from this poster. They also need to know the classification for the animal that they will be researching, so they can refer to this poster to help them find that information out.

After we learn about the 6 kingdoms, we move on to the zones of the ocean. We make this large anchor chart. We also watch the ocean habitat video on Brainpop jr.

The kiddos will also need to know what zone of the ocean their animal lives in. This chart is helpful for them to know that. 

Once we have finished these posters, we are ready to start a class research project. I like to do one as a class first so that they know what I am looking for in their reports. It also helps them to pinpoint more of their research because I model how to determine what are important facts to include and facts that may not be as important. For this research project, the kiddos each get a research booklet that has pages for different aspects of the animal. There is a page on habitat, appearance, predators, etc. When doing our class project, I make posters for each page. 

As the kiddos research each section, they write their facts on a post-it and stick it to the poster. I leave these up as they work on their individual projects so that they have something to refer to. For our group project, the kiddos do all their research in partners. When they do their individual projects, they won't have a partner. Also, if you look above each poster, I have another small poster that has guiding questions for each section. I have learned that no matter how much you practice the kiddos will still come up to you and say, "What am I supposed to do for predator/behavior/habitat?" These little posters help to eliminate that. 

Once we finish our research, we will draft our research. I have a scaffolded draft page that has a paragraph for each section researched. Then we will write a final draft. This whole process takes us about 4 days. Through this process, the kiddos see what I expect for this project and how to be successful with it. When they are finished with their individual projects, which takes about 2 weeks, they will also create a presentation which will be a poster, power point or brochure. I will share those when we get that far:)

Here are the two resources I use to support this whole process. The first is our actual research booklet. I recently updated it, so it looks a little different than the pictures above, but it sure did need a little facelift.

The second, is a set of ocean passages. These are leveled from A-I. Though many of my students are above an I, they are still full of information and they are good for supporting animal classification and ocean zones. I use them during guided reading. For my students who are a little higher, I have them kiddos sort through the information and work on asking and answering questions. This is to extend their thinking a bit.

I will say...this is a very labor intensive project. The kiddos have to do A LOT from the beginning to the end. They have to use both web-based research as well as books. I want to them to be able to pull information from multiple resources and then put it together in a cohesive format. That is why the draft paper is specific and broken down the way it it. My students have great success with this project. I hope yours will too!

I hope that if you are also doing some ocean animal research, you will find these resources helpful. It's so exciting to see how much they have learned this past year. It is definitely my most favorite part of the end of the year!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Five for Friday!

Happy Friday friends! It has been a long week and I am so glad that it is the weekend! Can I get an amen?!?! We are linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for a little Five for Friday fun!

 We found out that Epic has videos! So naturally, we had to show them at literature circle. They were so excited! The videos would tell them facts and they wouldn't believe it. So, they started trying to find books to see if they could prove the fact was wrong. You gotta love that!

We brought back an oldie but a goodie! The kiddos are practicing writing word names for numbers. They are playing hangman to do this. Boy, that spelling sure comes in handy when you are playing this game! That's why I let them use the word name chart in their workbook. This is, by far, their favorite game!

We got brand new Surface Pro 4's today! Woohoo!! The only bummer is I have to put in a work order to get all my fonts installed. That's probably going to take awhile. Luckily, they aren't taking our old desktops away yet, so I can use the fonts on it. We are supposed to get new docking stations with 22 inch screens! What?!?! No more squinting! Yay!

We started our ocean unit this week. We decorated our whole pod as the ocean! We even had Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid playing as the kiddos came in. It was awesome! I wish we could capture the whole essence of the pod but there is just so much to show. I work with awesome teachers! I have an awesome team AND the Title/LAP teacher that works in our pod saw what we were doing and she decided to do her door too!! That's how awesome the teachers I work with are! Plus, one of my teammates headed dow to Oregon where she found hats that MATCHED our doors!!! WHAT?!?! We were pretty excited about it!! Have I told you how much I LOVE my team?!?!

After all that school stuff, I had to throw in a personal one. We are gearing up for our recital. This year the girls are doing a jazz dance to Uptown Girl. It's super cute! Then, of course, my son had to jump in on the jazz pose:)

I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend! Summer is quickly approaching friends! You can do it!!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

End of the Year: Reading and Writing

Hello friends! I hope your end of the year countdown is nearing it's end! We still have quite a few days left but the end seems to be quickly approaching! Luckily, we have taught and assessed almost all the we need to when it comes to reading and writing. Phew! So, now we are working on some review activities that wrap up the skills we've been learning. Here are the two projects we were working on this week!

The first project we were working on was an opinion writing project. We spent some time researching different places around the world. We were strapped for time, because I only wanted to spend a day learning about them just to keep the project at a week. We used World Book Online to learn about each place. Then, the kiddos went to work picking one place that they really want to visit. They had to give three reasons why they wanted to visit this place.

It was so cool to see where they wanted to go! We went through different places such as Africa, Australia, Paris, etc. Then they got to pick one other place, their choice, to research. It was really exciting to see the places they chose. Many of them picked places where they had family like Colombia, Libya and Mexico. Once they had their reasons, they started their drafts. We always start with a scaffolded draft, like in the picture. Then they move to a draft in their composition notebook. Here's a look at their final copy:

Our next project was for reading. We made book brochures! This idea came from Amy Lemons at Step into Second Grade. The kiddos each picked out a just right book of their choice. The only guidelines I gave were that they had to be able to read it and it had to be fiction. Then, the kiddos went to work! They had to do write a retell, their connections, the setting, the characters and they had to recommend it to a friend. The kiddos really got into this project!

When they were finished, they shared them with the class when they were done. They really got excited about sharing their favorite books with the rest of the class! It really motivated them to read. I'll take that at the end of the year!

I hope your last few weeks are going smoothly! We are almost to the end:) I hope you all have a great week!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Five For Friday

Oh happy day, happy day!  It is Friday!  Howzabout a little Five For Friday today?  Thanks so much to Doodle Bugs Teaching for hosting!

This week's theme?  Things Teachers Do To Make It To The Last Day.  :-)  We are under the 25 days left mark...so close...but so far!  Everyone is tired.  Everyone is B.U.S.Y.  Everything is chaotic.  So we do what we can to keep the balance and stay sane, right?

We take the long way to work to enjoy the view.  I live by the water.  It is so beautiful on these sunny mornings.  I am lucky and get to drive along the water on the way into work.  But alas, the views are just peek-a-boo unless you take the loop.  It takes a few minutes longer, but the views are worth it. And besides, someone has to check on the fishermen and see what they are up to, right?  What a beautiful view!

We treat ourselves and take some time during lunch to enjoy the sunshine!  This is one of our courtyards.  The flowers are beautiful in the garden this time of the year.  The sun is always perfect in this courtyard at lunch, too.  See that green grass?  Don't you think it is the perfect place for a bench? Yeah, me too!  I have tried to tell the principal that, but so far no luck.  I'll keep on it though. :-)

We get things ready for summer.  Here are some of the free books we will give the kiddles for the summer.  We sorted over 2000 books today and that's enough to give each student three books to keep!  What a great thing since most of our students have few books at home.  That makes a teacher's heart happy I tell ya!

We visit the littles.  This sweet teacher is an amazing first grade teacher.  Her classroom and my teeny tiny office share a wall.  The firsties in her class have been working and working to learn some new songs to sing to their parents on Bring Your Parents To School Day.  They have the sweetest voices and make my day happy with their twice daily practice.  I just had to pop in and give them a standing ovation for their great singing.  Here they are practicing their rendition of the very fine classic.....Five Green and Speckled Frogs!  You just can't beat that!

We stop and take time to quietly celebrate how well the kiddos are doing.  These sweeties from one of my 5th grade groups, are rocking it at determining text structure and finding evidence for it.  I just have to sit back, watch and smile.  They are ready for middle school.  Sigh.  Sniff, sniff.  I will miss these awesome kiddos!  They just grow up way too fast.

So there you go!  The things we do to keep the balance in these last, crazy days before summer. What are you doing to keep sane?  Here's hoping that your last few days...no matter how many you have left....go quickly and happily.   Have a great weekend everyone!


Friday, May 6, 2016

Five for Friday!

Happy Friday friends!! We made it to Friday! Finally! Let's celebrate by linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for a little Five for Friday fun!

My husband has been in training all week, which has been a big bummer! He has a rotating schedule so generally he has at least two days off during the week. This makes daycare for the kiddos pretty easy!  But due to some daycare issues this week, I got to take a day off to be with my kiddos. Yay for me! We've also been lucky to have some extra warm weather the first part of the week which made it even better :) 

We are gearing up to start our final DRA testing for the year! This means we are spending the week before reviewing some things, such as writing retells. We are using some good books this time but I think The Invisible Boy is my favorite. It's such a great story and ALL of the kiddos can make some sort of connection to it. They also can pick out the lesson pretty easily. If you are looking for a skill review book, I highly recommend it!

We work in a very low-income area. Generally, we don't get things from the kiddos for teacher appreciation. Honestly, I don't want anything anyway. I would much rather have my families use their money on something else more important. But, I do LOVE handwritten cards and things that are made for me! This year I got some beautiful paper flowers and I LOVE them! 

Well, it's the time of year that we are magically starting to forget all the class expectations that we have had all year. So, we started team points. Let me tell you how awesome my kiddos are...I have a fascination with sharks. They are my favorite animal and my kiddos know this. So, I told them that they need to come up with team names. My only rule was their name had to be an animal that lives in the ocean, because we are going to be starting our ocean unit in a week. WELL...these awesome kiddos ALL picked different types of sharks for their team names!! They are a group after my own heart! 

Then I made these group signs and I just escalated to the coolest teacher ever...

Like I said, we are getting ready to start our oceans unit. This unit will take us to the end of the year. I like to use these passages during my guided reading time. It's a great way to start learning some of the vocabulary and to give some more background knowledge about the ocean. It has all sorts of topics including the ocean zones, tide pools, etc. Each topic has 6 levels, a - i. I teach second, so this is perfect for my lower group of kiddos. I also use them with my higher kiddos because they come with text dependent questions. They are perfect to practice locating information in a text because the higher kiddos don't have to focus on the text difficulty. Click HERE to check them out!

I hope that you all have a fantastic weekend and that all the end of the year countdowns move quickly!