Sunday, February 23, 2014

Another one bites the dust....

And another vacation comes to a close. NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just kidding. Kinda. I'm not thrilled to begin 5 weeks of test prep, no days off, and an observation, but I suppose I'll manage. At least we got a week of relaxation before beginning the toughest time of the year. The weeks leading up to the DREADED state assessments.

My students don't know what's coming. I mean, we're going to be hardcore about learning how to read and write for the tests that are rapidly approaching. But, I also have a tradition for these few weeks before the big tests. Testing treats! Whenever our class does a practice test or extended response that most likely elicits groans from even the most ambitious students, I have a testing treat waiting at the end of the tunnel. May it be a Smartie with the note, "Every teacher wishes they had smarties like you in their class!" or a Starburst with the note, "Here's a BURST of energy to do a fantastic job!" It's fun and motivating!

Testing Treats and Other Cute Classroom Signs

Other Testing Treats

Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher

Here is a book that I resisted for so many years. I use Ralph Fletcher's Writer's Notebook with my class while starting my Writing Workshop each year and I think that his tips for beginning writers are all amazing. I just wasn't sure that Flying Solo was age-appropriate for my fourth graders. Of course, I hadn't read it before this recent winter vacation, so I guess I was guilty of judging a book by its cover. Doh.

So, Flying Solo is unique because it offers each character an opportunity to share his or her insights. The tale begins with the reader learning that one of the students in the class had died a few months earlier, and the classmates never really dealt with the death. We learn about each character as they ready themselves for a typical Friday at school in Mr. Fabiano's class. Once the class arrives at school, they quickly realize that Mr. Fabiano is not present, and the school has forgotten to find a substitute teacher for the class. Naturally, the students decide to run the class themselves, without an adult. And what happens? You'll have to read to find out! (FYI: I cried. It was oh so sad. Case of the sadsies kinda sad.)

Another thing to mention is that this book is told chapter by chapter, with dates and times. The majority of the book occurs in one day, which is pretty neat-o.


Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

So, I first came in contact with this book last year, and decided to read it aloud to my class after state testing. We hadn't done a mystery read aloud, and the main character, Mo, seemed quite captivating an humorous. My fourth grade kiddos were SO into this text! They morphed into mini detectives, creating predictions based on clues presented in the text, racing to solve the mystery before the author's reveal. Although it is another longer text, it was a good read aloud and held the student's attention. There were a few naughty words that I blacked out in the text, but nothing horrifying. I'm just super cautious.

Here is the summary. Mo was abandoned as a baby. Miss Lana and the Colonel take her in and care for her. Flashforward 12 years. There is a murder in their small town of Tupelo Landing, so Mo and her best friend Dale take the case. I can't give away much more, but it really is an awesome read! Try it!

TeachersPayTeachers Novel Study

The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett

What a great book! I saw this on another website and decided to try it out. I teach fourth grade, and while I totally love this book, I'm not sure that my current class would connect with the text in the way that I did. Here's the down low.

Basically, the story's setting is in the midst of a war. The author doesn't quite come out and say which war, but based on clues in the text, students can narrow it down. The story follows Andrej, Tomas, and their baby sister Wilma, who have witnessed their family's execution, and are now on the run. They discover an abandoned zoo, filled with animals who can talk. Each animal shares their story, as the boys elaborate on their own.

I'm thinking about using this book as a novel study with a select group of higher functioning students in my class, instead of as a read aloud. I think that a few boys in my class read at high enough text levels, would be intrigued by the war aspect, and might be amused by the fantastical animals speaking element.

Although the text seems long, it is actually quite the quick read. The pictures and contrasting font and background colors are captivating, and truly add to the story.

TeachersPayTeachers Novel Study

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate written by Jacqueline Kelly

Another wonderful read! I bought this book a few years ago when it was first published, but only recently read it. I teach fourth grade, so I am hesitant to use such a long novel as a read aloud, but I have did assign it as an independent reading assignment for a group of very high students in my class. Since they happen to all be intelleigent, strong ladies, they really related to the character of Calpurnia. Well, I suppose you'd like a bit of a summary...

Calpurnia (Callie) lives in the late 1800s. She lives during a time of slavery, a time where women had traditional roles in the home and did not dare to dream of university. Callie has a strong connection with her grandfather, who teaches her how to be a scientist. They research together. While Callie struggles to balance the life her mother would like for her, full of stitching and marriage proposals, with the life she would like, which includes receiving a higher level education, the reader truly relates to this character and fights for her. It really was an enlightening story, one that sparks discussion and debate.

TeachersPayTeachers Novel Study

The Giggler Treatment written by Roddy Doyle

This book is hilarious! I should start by saying that it is an easy read, not a ton of depth, but captivating and laugh-inducing, for sure! My fourth graders have been pushed this whole year, reading higher level texts and analyzing various close reads. I'm thinking that after the state tests this book will be a treat!

So, The Giggler Treatment takes place in England, so there is a glossary with British lingo. Kinda cool. The basic premise is that "gigglers" are little monsters who sneak around, discovering which adults are not so nice to kiddos, and then giving them the giggler treatment. Of course, the giggler treatment is stepping in dog poo!

In this text, the gigglers are mistakenly giving Mister Mack the giggler treatment, and it is up to his children, wife, and a neighborhood dog to save the day! Will they make it in time? Read to find out!

TeachersPayTeachers Novel Study

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2 Hour Delays

Yesterday, a lot of people were talking about a winter advisory for today. Snow day talk. Getting my hopes up. And then, this morning, as I was getting dressed for school, I received a 5am phone call.

Hopes. Way. High.

As I listened to the recorded message from my superintendent, I heard the WORST phone call.


I'm not sure about anyone else, but I personally detest 2 hour delays. It means the morning commute will be AWFUL, lots of kiddos will be absent, my day is all out of whack, just terrible. And with these math modules, I am totally NOT getting off pace in math, so we're doing a math lesson during our writing time. Yep. No stopping me.

I also tend to try and squeeze a whole day of work into 2 hour delay days, half days, early dismissal days, etc. Time is precious! And there is never enough of it! And we always think we can do more with the time we have! And that usually doesn't really tend to totally work out.

Anyway. I have a 2 hour delay.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Making Five Minute Ice Cream in a Bag

Eveery Friday, my class celebrates FUN FRIDAY! Basically, kids who did all of their classwork and homework receive a half hour and fun activities. This week, I planned five minute ice cream in a bag!

So, I spent some time putting cream and vanilla extract in little plastic baggies, and put those into bigger plastic baggies. Next, the kids and I went outside in the freezing cold and put snow into the big plastic bag. We spent 2 minutes outside and froze our buns off.

After that, we went inside and SHOOK OUR BAGS!!! Five minutes of shaking a plastic bag of snow is seriously a blast. The kiddos were grinning from ear to ear. And then I look over to see the one kid who was taking it too far, slapping her baggies on a small table. Let's think this through. Plastic bag + sharp corners of a table = exploded bag and ice cream goo everywhere. And that's exactly what happened.

Except it exploded on the girl doing the slapping, two unfortunate boys standing nearby, and my entire listening center.

I wasn't mad. I just said, "It was an accident. Clean it up and then join our Fun Friday."

Of course the tears came. Crying. Sobbing while cleaning up ice cream from the crevices of the listening center. Upset that her ice cream was ruined.

Oh, by the way, it turned out to be more like ice cream soup. Still fun!

Sweet CCLS Resources

Let's share! My director of instruction and curriculum recently sent out some great websites with CCLS modules resources!
This includes links to ELA module articles and reading passages. It is organized by grade level.    
This includes lots of Math resources! Basically, someone broke down the math information into separate folders for easy access, and even created some workbooks to go along with some of the modules!


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Rochester Area Literacy Council Workshop

This past weekend, I went to a workshop presented by the Rochester Area Literacy Council. I selected to attend two different sessions, one pertaining to writing on tests and another about guided reading and how it really does fit the CCLS.

So, the writing on tests session...pretty informative. A TON on how to word questions when you're teaching so that they mirror the state test questions. Lots of resources, like 2 point and 4 point rubrics in student friendly lingo. I already have grand plans of using our school poster maker to blow up the rubrics as a constant reference as we approaching testing time. All in all, the workshop was worthwhile.

Next, I attended a session about guided reading, which started off by proving to all of us that guided reading really does fit in with the CCLS and we shouldn't do away with it. Seeing as this was a room of teacher, I doubt anyone doubted that guided reading is essential. Administrators? Maybe. But not the people in that room. This session quickly turned to how to use close readings in your guided reading. I'm doing this already, but I really enjoyed the resources presented. One blog that was shared with us is particularly helpful, and has TONS of free close reading resources. It is really awesome.

Just visit this blog. If you dig a little, you'll find a wealth of resources that you can use immediately! I'm teaching the "Saving a Baby Elephant" article tomorrow!