Thursday, January 30, 2014

Snow in Atlanta

You have more than likely heard about the chaos created by a tiny amount of snow and ice in our area. Luckily we live just north of the city so we missed out on the madness. I had an easy drive home from school, and no, I did not have to sleep at my school with my students. Oh, trust me, the way the media has portrayed the incident they made it sounds like kids all over town were stranded, not totally the case. I have fielded a few phone calls from those outside my area to make sure that we were ok. We are doing great.
I am thankful we all made it home and that there were teachers/schools ready to jump in and help all of the kids out. It is simply amazing how much teachers contribute to a child's world!
We did enjoy the snow though. I took my class outside to play during recess and they were like kids in a candy shop. They only see snow every few years, so it was something worth playing in.
My youngest son does not remember the snowstorm that stranded us for a week in 2011, since he was only 5 months old. He was especially delighted with the weather, although has informed me that he does not like when his brothers throw snow in his face.
A picture of our backyard/playhouse.
The boys sled and made snowballs and basked in the glory of the white wonderland. Hubs and I both laughed at them for being in early, as we both would spend the entire day outside during the winters. Guess they didn't inherit our northern blood!
It has been nice having an impromptu vacation. I played around with my Silhouette and actually made my son's Valentine mailbox for his party in 2 weeks. I am not often ahead on much, but hey, this is one less thing off my list.
I also finished up a little Valentine (math story problems )freebie for my TPT store. I made a set of math task cards that cover several skills. We are heading in to crunch time and mixed review is becoming crucial. I would love some feedback, so if you download them please let me know what you think.
I am working on some sports-themed math problems, but those are still a product in progress.
I had some work I needed to get done, but unfortunately I left that stuff behind in my classroom, not thinking we would be out for 2 days! Ooops, I guess Friday will be a hectic day as we pick up where we left off and try to keep the ball rolling.

I have been incredibly busy lately. Seriously, it seems that I am running non-stop lately. So when I have managed to stop, I have crashed. 2014 has started off with a bang! I apologize for my minor disappearance, I am doing my best to keep my head above the ever rising tide!

I am excited about a giveaway I joined. Carol's Garden is celebrating 100 followers and is hosting a big K-2, 3-5, and clipart giveaway. The giveaway started today, make sure you check it out. I would love one of you to win the great prizes!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hope you are staying warm, have thawed out if you were part of the arctic freeze, and are doing well. Enjoy your Friday and many wishes for a relaxing weekend!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mentor Text: Earth Science

It has been a while, so I am excited about linking up with Collaboration Cuties for their Mentor Text linky party. This week's focus is science texts. I love integrating reading with Science. 

We are currently in our Earth Science unit, and supplementing with texts is so helpful for the kids to be able to see land forms and read all about the land forms. One of the best sources of engaging text with tons of pictures are books by Seymour Simon. 

Seymour Simon Images from Amazon

I have both of these books, bought them through Amazon a few years ago and they are always favorites of my kiddos. I do not put them in my student library, instead I save them for when we study Earth Science and then the kids are really excited about getting a chance to read them! 
Seymour Simon's science texts teach the content alongside vivid images that are often breathtaking. They provide images that capture the readers attention. The text is not overwhelming and provides explanations of the content, along with examples of locations of events. They also include cause and effect explanations that further explain the topics. 
There are tons of other texts by Seymour Simon as well as apps. If you are looking for a way to integrate reading in science or texts to supplement your lessons, his books are an excellent place to start. 
If you are looking for a book to read aloud to your class, I highly recommend Quake! Disaster in San Francisco 1906
Quake! Image from Amazon
Quake! is an incredible story of how 2 young boys survived the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The story is loaded with factual information about the earthquake and the effects of the disaster. The story also focuses on how different groups of immigrants were discriminated against in different regions, this book discusses the poor treatment of Asian immigrants along the West Coast. Since 5th grade also studies immigration this book integrates topics from our social studies curriculum, our science curriculum. 
This historical text integrates social studies, science, and factual details and images; you really can't get much better than that! 
Another book I have recently purchased, but have not read, that I plan to share with my class is I Survived The Japanese Tsunami, 2011. This series of books is very popular with students. I have a Scholastic Magazine with an article about the tsunami from 2011 that was written by Lauren Tarshis, and it is always one of their favorites. I was excited to see this book, and knew that I would share it during my earth science unit.  
Students will more than likely the events from this tsunami, so it is a great text to share with them. 
I also want to share a document that I created to use with my students to help them with analyzing informational text. I know that my students can connect with text, but they continue to struggle with analyzing text closely and citing evidence. 
Fonts by Lovin' Lit, Graphics by: Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Glitter Meets Glue Designs, Graphics from the Pond, & JCSweetpea
As part of a book study at my school, we are reading, Pathways to the Common Core Accelerating Achievement. 
Image from Amazon
In the section we just completed, the text emphasizes closely reading text and citing with evidence explicitly mentioned in the text. It is a tough skill for many of my students. So, I decided to create a practice sheet to guide them through standards 2-6.  
Informational Text Analysis Sheet

The questions encourage students to go back to the text to locate information. The first question seems simple, "What did you learn from the text?," yet while administering Foutnas & Pinnell benchamrks, I was surprised how many of my kiddos wanted to tell me what they already knew, instead of details from the text. Obviously, it is not such a simple question. 
I plan to use this with my weekly fluency articles (which this quarter will focus on major social studies and science topics), and with informational text. I will model how to answer the questions, then have students answer questions independently before we discuss the topics. After discussing the text, students will be given a chance to add or revise their responses.
I hope that continuously exposing students to the questions will help them think more about their text as they read. Until then, we will keep practicing! 
You can download the informational text practice sheets for free, here. If you download the document, please leave feedback to let me know what you think. If you use this with your students I would love to know about your experiences. 
Don't forget to check out the other links for this week's mentor texts at Collaboration Cuties. Thank you to Amanda & Stacia for hosting this party! It always helps me think about texts I want to use with my class. Sometimes, it simply reminds me to pull out some of the books I might have forgotten about. A lot of times it helps me discover a text I did not know about. 
Hope everyone has a fabulous day and discovers something inspiring!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Five for Friday: Happy Birthday to me!

It was a long week! Seriously, 5 day weeks are really tough. (Ha ha!) Needless to say, I am excited about this 3 day weekend. 
I am going to cherish it because it is the last day off we will have until April. I will also be working on Saturdays for the next few weeks as we prepare for our state writing test. This time of year is crunch time, and we will be working incredibly hard to prepare for our state exams. 
I had this blog written out in my head already, but was just too wiped out to sit in front of the computer for the last 2 nights. Sorry I am tardy to the Five for Friday party. I am so thankful to Doodle Bugs Teaching for hosting and not fussing at the late folks! 
Happy Birthday to me! And Happy belated birthday to Doodle Bugs who celebrated her birthday yesterday. 
My husband loved teasing me about getting "old," at least he will always reach the milestones first!
Nothing says "I love you" like roses! My mom had these beauties delivered to me at school, so sweet. 
It was a wonderful birthday (Wednesday). Well wishes all around. 
My teammate made a delicious dessert for me and I received a super sweet card. My best teaching friend gave me a new workout top, perfect for our after school workouts. 
My sons were so sweet this week in celebrating me. They reminded their dad to go shopping to buy me something really nice (he succeeded, love my new earrings), they insisted on a super yummy cake (raspberry elegance), and told all of their friends at school. 
It was really sweet when I saw both of their classes, they all wished me happy birthday. 
My 4 year old kept all of his drawings from school this week, hid them in his room, and on the morning of my birthday gave me them as birthday gifts. It was absolutely endearing and precious. 
Speaking of my 4 year old, his school celebrated the 100th day of school on Friday. They asked them to dress up like 100 year olds.  He looked pretty darn cute in his hat, glasses, and tie.
He took on the role of an boss. He kept telling his brothers, "I am the boss, do what I say or you won't get a green smiley." Guess his teacher's smiley face system is impacting him, he thinks that is the ultimate prize in life. Every morning when I leave he smothers me with hugs and kisses and well wishes for my day including the statement, "Have a good day Mommy, be good, get a green smiley!" 
We finished our first full week of Whole Brain Teaching's Super Speed math for fluency practice. I love this fluency practice. Friday I introduced the fractions fluency and we had amazing math talks about how to do the fluency practice. (I will blog more about this at a later date because I love it!)
Can't wait for me to blog, check it out here
We also began reading Esperanza Rising and Frindle in class. 

I have a wide range of reading levels so we needed two books. 
This year, I had the ultimate goal of encouraging my kids to self select books but I found that they were not reading. So I had to resort to assigning the book and assigning reading and writing responses to hold them accountable. One big task for me this weekend is scoring what they have done so far. 
With guidance they are doing well. A few of my higher readers finished the book and are planning to read Frindle for fun. One of my Frindle readers asked to read Esperanza Rising when he finishes his book. Hey, I would call that a success! 
I have taken on a new role this past week, student teacher supervisor. Wow, it is a lot of work. I have had students who did their field experience in my classroom and that was pretty easy, they just hung out, observed, and helped me out as needed. 
This time around I have a student who is going to be planning and teaching. This is her final experience before graduating. This week was full of questions, and changing the way I do things so that she can get the full experience. I do most of my planning at home, so that will need to be adjusted, not a problem.
She is already getting great experiences with discipline. Was it the full moon or the new person in my room? They must really want her to get a full experience as well! 
I want some tips from my readers. What are the best things your lead teacher did for you? What did they do to help you become fabulous teachers? What are some tips you would give to me to be a terrific lead teacher? 

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, especially if you are as lucky as me to have a 3-day. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tried It Tuesday: Timers and a Healthy Shake

Hello teaching friends, hope this Tuesday evening finds you doing well! I am excited about linking up again with Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper for this week's Tried It Tuesday link

This week I want to tell you about some awesome stopwatches I was so lucky to win in a giveaway on Bunting, Books, and Bainbridge
My boys loved opening this package with me, they were the first to test them out and all were successful (4-8 yrs old).
Christine had reviewed the stopwatches for Learning Resources and was granted a set of 6 to giveaway. You can read Christina's review here.  
After reading her review, I knew they would be perfect for my kiddos. We do weekly reading fluency and are working on daily math fluency; I knew they would be used frequently.  
In a busy classroom simple tools can be better! They are bright, have only 3 buttons (stop, go, and clear) - no more, "How does this work?" which means, no more wasted time!
My students love them and strive to receive this timer instead of the "old" ones.  
Unfortunately, after I distributed them we discovered that 2 did not work. 
I thought that maybe the thingy you pull out from the back did not come out all the way, My hubs took them apart for me and he showed me that something in the timer just was not working. 
I emailed Learning Resources about the issue and a representative contacted me immediately. All I had to do was email a copy of my packing slip to her and within 2 days I received replacements of the 2 broken timers. My customer service experience is really what sealed the deal for me. The ease of replacing the broken timers and the apologetic nature really let me know they were a company worth purchasing from. 
If you are looking for some stopwatches, I highly recommend them! If you run in to trouble with one of their products I recommend you contact them through their website, they will help you. 

I have mentioned that one of my resolutions this year is to take better care of myself. I am sticking strong to it. I finished my 4th day of T25 today and I feel good. My best teaching buddy and I have been talking about other ways to take care of ourselves and drop some of the pounds we have picked up over the last few years. Over the weekend she downloaded the Weight Watchers app and I may join her. Until then, we are sharing tips on better/healthier eating. 
School can be stressful and eating healthy is not always easy when the schedule fills up and you have a million things to do, so I wanted to fill up my arsenal with some easy yet filling options. 
I decided to try some Special K protein shakes as an option for lunch or on days when I forget to eat breakfast and end up starving. I am not a diet drink gal so I was not sure it would be for me. Well, after just one drink, I am hooked. 

I tried the chocolate mocha and I just have to say, YUM! I love coffee and the flavor of the shake was delicious, tasted like a coffee shop treat. It was filling and I was not hungry until after I got home (and that was even after a T25 session). 
If you like coffee, are looking for something to keep back hunger, I recommend stashing some in your desk. 
It is tough to make life changes, but it is worth it. Having supportive friends really helps. I love the rallying effort of all the teachers in our approach to be more healthy in 2014! 
Do you have any products you would recommend for school or sticking to resolutions? How are you doing with your 2014 goals?  
Looking for some more tried its? There are some great posts already linked up, don't forget to check them out.  
Thanks to Holly for hosting the party! 
Happy Tuesday to you! 
(I did not receive money for either product review, nor was I asked to write these reviews. But if either company wants to send me money, I am all for it! Ha ha! )

Monday, January 13, 2014

Welcome to my newest followers and a Link to a giveaway

Welcome to all my new followers. I loved receiving an email that I have passed 30 followers, it has been a slow yet awesome experience. Thank you for all the support as I journey through the world of teaching and motherhood! 
I just wanted to take a quick minute to share a link to a great giveaway. Cheryl at Techie Turtle Teacher has reached a milestone of 100 followers on Teachers Pay Teachers and has a huge bundle to giveaway. Click here to read her post and enter her rafflecopter. Good luck to you, I would love for one of my followers to win!
You can tell that school is back in session, my to do list is about a mile long. It will take a little while to get back in to the efficient groove, this weekend was not it for me, I felt like inefficiency was thwarting everything I attempted. Some days are just like that. 
Hope you are cruising along smoothly.  Have a great day!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Five for Friday 1/10/14

Happy Friday to all of my fabulous teaching friends! I am excited to be linking up again with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday

The frigid temperatures are slowly moving on, and things are returning to the normal conditions around here: rain in time for the weekend! Not complaining though, it could be all ice and snow.
The cold weather stirred up some inquiry in my boys and allowed for some great weather observations and discussions about temperatures. They are becoming keenly aware of the typical conditions of their environment  and the impact it can have on their lives. 
My oldest have informed me, they  were not huge fans of being stuck inside and are really looking forward to warm weather. Guess, they really are Southern boys!
I adored watching my youngest dress up in his hat and gloves every time we went outside, even if just to retrieve the mail.
He really embraced the winter gear! Oh that boy is such a little ham and brings such joy to my life!
Short weeks = Long weeks! 
Mathematically that probably seems like I should have written that as an inequality, but as a teacher you know that equation is accurate! 
Perhaps it does not help that this short(er) week back entailed finalizing grades, proofing report cards, sending test reports home, mid-year evaluations, and a few meetings. 
That all equates to some serious juggling! Thank goodness for a weekend to recover!
This was me, last night, stuffing report card envelopes. 
Question of the day: Report cards go home today, right? If I do some extra credit today can you count it? 
This week we have been plowing our way through mid-year evaluations in math, writing, and reading. Data, data, data! 
We use Fountas and PInnell for for reading benchmarks and it was extra stressful at the beginning of the year when many were scoring below grade level. It meant we were really going to have to work hard and make daily reading a priority. 
I am pleased to report that my kiddos are making progress. So far they are all exhibiting growth in words per minute and achieving at least 2 levels of growth in comprehension. After each assessment I take a few minutes to praise them, tell them how much they have grown and let them know what aspects I think are helping them make their growth. The process of F&P takes a lot of time, but it is great to see their progress and to know that the plans are paying off! 
I know that weekly fluency assignments are really helping my lower/reluctant readers out. During the first semester I used this book. I bought the e-book from Teachers Pay Teachers (loved the credits!), but it is available in school stores and probably from Amazon as well. 
We completed the whole book in the first half of the year, and are now adapting other reading passages as our weekly fluency assignments. I plan to differentiate it more on their levels and sneak in some non-fiction text on Social Studies and Science topics too!  
Do you know how you teach something and the kids don't quite grasp it the way you envisioned? Well, this year, I have had lots of those moments. It can be incredibly disappointing and discouraging. I experienced this when teaching how to cite evidence and explaining their thinking in their writing.
Today, much to my surprise, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. They do listen to me and with persistence they will catch on. Oh, it was glorious! 
While reading and discussing a passage about Alexander Graham Bell several students started supporting their answers with phrases like, "The author said..." and "I know this because..." 
The best was when a student said, "I figured out the answer by looking in this other book and finding this fact.... and then put it with this information...." My heart was smiling over this small victory! We are going to make it! 
As if that wasn't enough to make my day, several students made the connection between the components of my math problem solving sheet and the required components of our mid-year exemplar evaluation. 

A few even asked if they could use that format on their exemplar problem. 
I usually dread giving/scoring the exemplars, but I am actually excited about it because the light-bulb clicked on for so many of them today. 
As I walked around, I saw charts and visuals being used to solve and prove their answers. Another serious moment of pride. It is moments like these that refill my teaching energy cell and keep me going through those tougher days where it feels like I am not breaking through on anything, and trust me those moments occur regularly.
I was pleasantly surprised to come home to a box filled with a birthday gift for me. My amazing big sister sent me a package in an effort to start the celebration. 

 My birthday isn't until next week, I share my day with Martin Luther King Jr., and this one is a biggie. Yep, you guessed it, I am turning 21! {Bahahahaha} 
This gift got me excited about the great things ahead for me and I am actually looking forward to reaching this benchmark. Maturity has its perks! 
 My sister sent me a sweet card, a beautiful scarf, and some pampering items. With all this cold weather, the kit will do wonders for my wintry feet. 
Seeing as I am getting older, I am staying true to my resolutions in an effort to remain young and vital, or at least be able to keep up with my kiddos and look halfway decent doing so. It feels great to take care of myself, but I am exhausted. 
Today I completed day 2 of T25 and wow, my legs are screaming at me that I am out of shape. I know the pain means I worked hard and in the long run I will benefit. 
I tell you what though, it might only be a 25 minute workout, but it is 25 minutes of fast and intense muscle moving. I know I am just at the beginning of this regime and it is going to keep getting harder, but I am not going to give up. I know, most people do after a few days. But the teachers at my school are doing this together. We are encouraging each other to go, supporting each other through it, and helping each other stay positive through the aches and pains (and there are tons!). 
It feels great to be taking care of myself and it is even better that we are doing this together. 

I hope that you have felt some teacher love this week and are thawing out in your neck of the woods. Don't forget to check out the other links at Doodle Bugs Teaching Five for Friday party. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Made it through the first day back!

Whew, I made it through the first day back. Most of the kids came back ready to learn and were not surprised that we had work to do, which is always a nice treat.
Because we missed school yesterday, we actually hit the ground running and started off with a mid-year writing prompt. We have 2 months until our big writing test, so we will be getting serious about writing. It really was a great way for them to see how ready they are for the big day. 

When I mentioned that we would be sending home sign up sheets for Saturday school as an extra prep opportunity, I was really excited that several kids thought it would be fun and plan to sign up. Woot Woot, they want to do well. 
We stuck to the time constraints of the actual writing test, so it was a real eye opener for them, and now I know who I have to really spend some time pushing to write faster.

While the kids wrote, I did some planning, and was able to come up with solid plans for writing and reading for the next month and a half. My co-teacher and I were able to sit and talk through our literature units and plan for as many practice writing tests as possible before March 5th. 
We have a lot to do over the next 2 months, but it seemed doable and we really feel ready for the task at hand. It probably helps that we have worked together for 10 years, understand each other so well, and have a realistic attitude about what we can accomplish. 
Another great thing about being back to school is that my sons all got a chance to get out of the house and be away from each other. It meant they actually got along when they were around each other. Being cooped up in the house over the last few freezing days was not good for any of us! So it was glorious to each get to go our own ways and spend time with people our own age, that goes for me too (I miss my teaching buddies over the break).
I stuck to my resolution of taking better care of myself too, I drank some herbal tea, a few glasses of water, no soda, and stopped eating when I was full. I also got back on the workout regime. After school we started T25. 
Man, I am out of shape! I thought Jillian Michael's workout was hard, yikes, I was not ready for today. I will be more motivated to keep going since I am working out with teacher friends and we are committed to helping each other. There is a lot to be said about positive peer pressure! 
Ok, some promised pictures....
My BINGO reward board.
I cut the letters and numbers out with my Silhouette on sticker paper and zipped the chart through the laminator. Students who completed their winter reading challenge got to write their number in a square and I plan to pull a number by Friday. The kids were excited about the board and the options for some new incentives.
Another project I made with the Silhouette. 
I traced the face with the Silhouette software and used the cut outs to paint the face on the canvas. 
The kids loved it. Since we are such huge fans of the book, Wonder, I wanted to keep a little memento with the positive message. (You can't blend in if you were born to stand out. and Everyone deserves a Standing Ovation!) I plan to give kids more standing ovations in the second half of the year as they meet their goals. 

Before break I assigned the Winter Break Reading Challenge to my students. It is a great (free) activity from More than a Worksheet. 
One student misplaced her sheet so she wrote it out on a piece of paper, that made my day! Here are some the completed ones. (I will definitely use this again next year.)
The reading challenge they completed. Add 10 marshmallows. Each marshmallow represented 20 minutes of reading over the break. I loved how creative this student was. 
Since only a few completed the activity, I rewarded them with a sweet treat. I hardly ever give out candy, so it got them talking and really made the kids who completed the work feel special. 
After a long day of work and working out, I am ready to call it a night. It was a great start to our new year. Tomorrow we will keep running through our curriculum of fractions, inventors, reading, writing, and earth science. 
Hope you are staying warm, defrosting, and if you are back in the classroom that all went well for you. For those, who are still at home because of the frozen conditions, I hope things are thawing out so you can get back in the teaching groove!