Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Favorites and Reflections

Yesterday I showcased a few of my most recent products, but I thought today I'd bring back a few of my "favorite" things for Friday!

I have a few favorite blog posts that I am linking to as well as a few favorite products.  I hope you find something useful as you head into the weekend.  Just a reminder that the TpT sale goes on until tonight--and my sale continues through Saturday.  If you buy today--don't forget to enter the TPT3 code for extra savings!
One of my favorite blog posts of all times was actually not that long ago on the night before my latest student teacher started when I was reflecting about teaching and what a noble profession we all immerse ourselves in.  With so much negativity out there, we need to keep our eye on the prize.  Miss that post?  CLICK HERE to check it out!
Another favorite post is one I wrote as we were digging into the the book "Wonder".  Although the post itself isn't a work of literary genius (who am I fooling--none of mine are!), this book evoked such an outpouring of mature thinking and literary brilliance in my class last year, that I keep the book perched on my desk as a reminder of what students are capable of doing when we give them rich learning experiences.  Want to read more?  CLICK HERE!
Here's a third one you might have missed...I post SO much about math and literacy--that sometimes I need to regroup and remind myself that the entire reason we teach math and literacy is so that students can make sense of their world and function in it!  This post was about how I try to teach students to THINK in every subject...and this one is all about the scientific method--an easy, meaningful lesson for anyone to try!  CLICK HERE if you missed that one!

Looking back over all those blog posts got me thinking about how much work goes into teaching--and how much I love being in the classroom helping my students create meaning.  I have dozens and dozens of resources in my store, but my favorite ones are the products that really help students think and make sense of the world.  I thought I'd share a few of them here in case you haven't ever checked them out.  Thanks for indulging me!
This was seriously one of the biggest undertakings EVER...but I take a huge amount of pride in how many teachers I have helped teach fractions in a more constructivist, meaningful way!
I have begun doing more and more concept sorts with my students, and I have seen the level of math understanding go up and up.  More are in the works!
Many people use exit slips, but this resource not only helps teachers understand a formative assessment technique they might not have used--but also gives them a bunch of ready-to-use forms for any subject!

This resource has sold more copies than any other resource in my store!  Not only can it help teachers get to the heart of teaching historical fiction, but it give EXPLICIT directions on how I set up book clubs in my class...something that can extend beyond just historical fiction.
I hope you all have a wonderful Friday...thanks for stopping by as I reflect on some of my work from the last year!  Stop back in the next week for blog posts on CGI math, Google docs (L-O-V-E!) and more!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bargain Shoppin'!

As many of you know, today and tomorrow is the big "3,000,000 Strong" sale over at TpT.  When shopping, if you use the TPT3 code, you can get up to 28% off items!  I am pretty excited about how close I am to my 2,000 follower milestone, so I am extending mine through Saturday as well--so Thursday and Friday you get MY 20% off plus the bonus sale at TpT.  On Saturday you can STILL get 20% off my store!  Click below to go right to my store!


I have created quite a few products in the last few months that I am using in my classroom, so I thought I'd show them to you in case you wanted to snag them while they are on sale!

1.  My latest is a series of "Amazing Human Body Word Problems".  I teach human body so they are just want I need--but I am pretty sure I would use them even if I didn't.  My students LOVE cool "real world" facts, and these really stress multiplication so they are perfect for fourth and fifth grade.



2.  My Select-a-Size addition CGI problems...I am using these in a problem solving intervention group where the students struggle with problems with the variable moves--instead of 32 + 26 = ___, they need to solve 32 + __ = 58.  The best part of these problems in my opinion is that you (or the students) can choose from 3 different levels of numbers so they are already differentiated!  My first grade friend has been using them in her classroom as well with the single digit numbers!


3.  My latest novel study, "Number the Stars".  I'm super happy with how this turned out--it is NOT a novel study of crosswords and vocabulary pages.  It is meant to help you as a teacher help THEM dig in to a text, think deeply, and write about what they find.  I love it--and I think there will be more in this series, so I am taking suggestions!


4.  This product was kind of a whim--I was getting everything ready and thought I'd throw it out there.  People are finding it SUPER helpful!  If you are looking for an organized way to help your students learn their math facts, this might be the tool to help you really identify what facts they don't know!


5.  I wanted to find a way for my students to practice addition and subtraction in math workshop that didn't need ME and could be used all year long and by students at all different levels.  That is how the "Toss and Solve" resource was born!  If people find it helpful, multiplication and division will be on their way!

Stop back tomorrow where I'll highlight a few of my top sellers that you might not now about!

Anyhoo--hope all of you have a great day--it's supposed to b -40 wind chills again today, so yet another day of indoor recess.  I can do it--RIGHT?


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Digging Deeper into Texts

If you have followed me for the last year, this post may look a little familiar.  It's come around to our "writing about historical fiction" unit, and once again my students are LOVING IT!  I would go so far as to say that today's writing block was one of our best hours of the year so far this year!

In a nutshell, this writing unit asks students to think back and reflect on a book/books they have already read.  Whether it be a class read aloud, a book done in a book club (that's what we are using...our historical fiction book club books), or an independent read, we are "digging deeper" into the text to really study key characters and key events and then to write about them.

As we read our historical fiction books, we "tracked our thinking" in our reader's notebooks which is making this process a lot easier, but the simple fact is--they are writing about something they are an "expert" on because they know the books so well.  The words are flowing--even for my reluctant writers.

The students are presented with a menu of options to select from:


The two tasks at the top are required of all students and are taken fully through the writing process....we model and plan as a class, then draft alone, and then we work in revision pairs to try to improve our work for publication.

The other six are optional tasks...some students will complete only a few and others will complete all six.  A lot depends on if they are pulled for other small groups or if they are willing to do some work at home!

The last few days have been spent working on their "perspective writing" and the students are LOVING getting into the role of two different characters to tell about critical turning point in the book. It helps that the book club books were "meaty" and we had great discussions along the way.  Students have character quotations, key events, and even character feelings tracked as "things to discuss" in book clubs so they have lots of good material to use in their writing!  Students are sharing like crazy and are lining up to read me some of their best lines...they LOVE trying to capture the emotion of the event!


We are storing all our "works in progress" in these construction paper "portfolios".  That way our revision sheets, final copies, sketches, and everything are all in one place.


Each student has a "menu" and is working on drafts in their notebooks.  We made a T-chart to plan our perspective writing and then students are drafting in their spirals.



One of the best things to watch is students "digging in" to their texts to find examples, to quote directly from characters and so on.  They were seriously ALL writing and working for a full 60 minutes today!  It gave me tons of time to circulate and coach and confer!

Interested in having it all ready for you?  Here is the link to the resource in my store...


Have a great day!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Graffiti Walls: "Theme"

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Just thought I'd share a lesson that I'm sure a lot of you know--but sometimes isn't it nice to hear about something and think, "Oh yeah!  I haven't done that in a LONG time?"

We finished reading "Eight Keys" as our read aloud (TOTALLY recommend it for grades 4-5) and in the final pages, the main character, Elise, reflects on the seven messages her deceased father has left her throughout the book:

To introduce the idea of "theme" which we will really be exploring in our next units, I wrote these 7 pieces of "life advice" in the center of some pieces of bulletin board paper and invited my students to comment on them.  We reviewed the ideas we have talked about with book discussions...stay on topic, piggyback off others' ideas, think deeply, and so on.  I asked students to reflect on the messages, react personally, or to provide examples to support the claim from the book.



With 7 sheets, students milled around the room and found the pages that spoke to them the most.  Those who could not think of anything to write at first were encouraged to read other ideas and start to piggyback--even if it was simply to agree or disagree!


After a while, students DID start to piggyback off each other by connecting their ideas with lines and drawing arrows.

The students LOVED it, so I need to remember to throw this type of interactive activity out there a little more often!

Also, just wanted to let you know to make sure to follow me on Facebook if you haven't already--lots of times I will introduce special deals or new products there and only there!  Thanks, and have a great week!  Click HERE to follow me on Facebook!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Close Reading and Dialogue Studies

"Close reading" is all the buzz these days, and there are so many important skills and strategies that can be addressed doing a "close read" of a text.  That being said, I do think we need to be very careful that we don't "kill" reading by over-analyzing everything we read!

I do want to share an activity we did the other day that I feel was JUST the right amount of close reading!  We are just finishing our read aloud, "Eight Keys"--and the kids are just loving it!  We have been getting to know the main character, Elise, very well and have been paying attention to how Elise acts, feels, and what she says.

As we finished reading a chapter today, I made a copy of a page that I thought was particularly interesting (a page I had already read TO them) and I partnered the students up to go "hunting".  I asked them to use their highlighter to highlight all words that were spoken aloud.  We have been talking on and off all year about dialogue and that authors use dialogue to give the reader insight as to character feelings.  I have recently been noticing some deeper thinking about what characters have been DOING so I wanted to see if the students could think deeply about what they are SAYING.  They highlighted the dialogue (I circulated to make sure all partners understood how the quotation marks showed this, etc) and then I asked them to "star" any words spoken that they felt helped further the story.  I then asked them to write their thinking in the margins.




We came back as a whole class and talked about how some of the dialogue helped us know what the characters were doing--but some of it really helped us get to know their thoughts and feelings.  Once I was sure they understood the process, I sent them off to tr it again with the next two pages of the text that we had not yet read.  I reminded them that they might need to read and reread as they hunted for important dialogue.


This time they had a real purpose for reading--we were at a very important part of the book with a critical discussion between two characters.  I was so impressed with some of the discussion I heard with some of my pairs!  They were really using the text to make inferences about Elise and her friend.

We came back together and shared out and we were able to again stress that dialogue is one way authors "show" us what they need to!  Our next step?  To dig in deeper to our book club books and have students hunt for critical dialogue and to write about it!  The whole lesson?  Less than 20 minutes start to finish!  Have a great day--another winter storm coming my way. UGH!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Helping students gain confidence with fact fluency

"They don't know their facts."


Certainly you've heard it--and probably said it!  Today's post over at All Things Upper Elementary addresses the issue and gives some suggestions about how to help figure out which students need help--and how to get started tackling the facts one strategy at a time.  My feeling is that students who aren't speedy with their math facts believe they are "bad at math"--and we need to do anything in our power to change their beliefs!  Stop by to check out the post and see what you think!
All Things Upper Elementary

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Digging into texts...how do authors "show not tell"?

My current reading and writing unit is asking students to dig deeper into familiar texts to see some of the "craft" of writing.  The other day I really wanted my students to see what Patricia MacLachlan does in Sarah, Plain and Tall to help the reader "see" what is happening.  We have been working on "showing" not "telling" in our own writing, but students seem to be struggling with the concept.  I figured they needed to see it for themselves!

I sent small groups with the text to go back and reread a chapter (each group had a different chapter) and hunt for box examples of descriptive language where they could really "see" the story--and other examples of text that merely gave the reader information.  They talked through them together and had to come up with one good example of each to write on a sticky note.  It was a lot of fun to eavesdrop on the groups as they defended their choices and talked about specific words and phrases that they felt helped them visualize.





We then got together as a whole class and talked through the examples.  As we talked, we had some debate about whether or not the examples really fit into the two categories!  Students defended their ideas and eventually we got all our sticky notes stuck someplace.  You'll notice a few riding down the middle--we just couldn't get consensus on those!


The students had a lot of fun with the activity, and then I sent them back to check out their own writing journals to try the same activity.  Overall the students were in agreement that they need MUCH more descriptive language in their own writing!  This is a lesson I will repeat again in a few days to see if they are continuing to tune in to how the author uses description.  Have a great weekend!



Friday, February 14, 2014

FUN with computation? Really?

OK...I have to admit.  I feel I have worked soooo hard at getting my students secure with their larger number addition and subtraction but I STILL see lots and lots of computational errors.  I decided that I needed to create a way for students to practice--and also wanted something that would be usable over and over...would be differentiated by student need...would be fun...and could be done independently or cooperatively.

No problem, right?

My kids love working with dice, so I started working on a set of task cards where they could roll to make numbers that they would then add or subtract to work on precision.  As often happens, a small project grew into a LARGE project and I decided I wanted cards at every level imaginable--from no regrouping to one trade to multiple trades.  I wanted 2, 3, and 4 digit problems and I wanted to avoid having students create "messy" problems where the top number was 
larger than the bottom.

Thus my "Toss and Solve" resource was born!  

Here are some photos of the task cards in action!


I let students check their work with calculators--even more fun!

I laminated the cards so students could use wipe off markers right on them.  They transfer their answers to the recording sheets.  I made each set of cards on a different color paper to keep things organized!

I used these in math workshop--and I differentiated the levels to meet the needs of my students.

Students were challenged to see how "precisely" they could work!  They were thrilled when they got a full page of computation done with no errors!
You can do these activities on your own--just grab a piece of notebook paper and some dice and let the students go!  Here are some tips!
  • Let students check their work on calculators
  • Have students work in pairs to check each other’s work
  • Pair this with estimating—have students estimate their answers before solving
  • Make baggies of task cards and dice to send home for extra practice
If you want to check out the cards I made, I've included the link below.  My students asked me today to make them for multiplication!  




Thursday, February 13, 2014

Exploring a Math Workshop Resource

Although I haven't blogged about it much yet, I am eager to share with you some of the discoveries I have made this year while piloting math workshop in my classroom.  I just keep avoiding it because there is SO much to say that I just can't get started!  I promise I will get going on it soon...

One thing that I am always on a quest to find is meaningful resources to use either as extensions or as resources to use with small groups during math workshop.  While having a "cyberchat" with some other bloggers/curriculum designers, the amazing Laura Candler mentioned one of her resources that she thought I might like to try!

I checked out her "Math Stations for Middle Grades", and I'm sure glad I did!  It is a great resource to keep on hand all year because there is a little something for everyone and for every topic!



I thought I'd show you a few of the resources I used out of the book to complement the work I was doing during my last unit in math.  Here goes!


One thing I have noticed with some of my struggling students is that they have a hard time picturing what word problems are asking.  This resource has a page that I tried with a small group to try to get them to read the problem, draw what the problem was asking, and then write about their solution.  It was definitely tricky for them, so we had to really do lots of modeling.  We will definitely work on this "drawing" to help solve in the future!



I have also noticed that some of my students are really struggling to visualize math problem solving situations in their head and to read, think, and solve!  We used the Unifix Tower Challenge in pairs to practice listening to directions, visualizing in our mind, and checking our work with unifix cubes.  It was fun to see the students really using their language skills to ask questions like, "What did you say about the middle cube?" and "Could you please repeat the last direction?"  I bet students could even write their own versions of these problems to challenge each other!


Finally, I used one of the activities with one of my enrichment groups.  We have been "playing" with variables and algebra thinking, and this resource has a set of matching cards where students match an algebraic equation with a scenario.  The kids enjoyed the activity and had some great discussions to "prove" their thinking!

The resource has many other activities in it that we haven't used yet because they are on a variety of topics that we haven't covered yet.  It will be one I revisit with each unit to pull out the activities that can help enrich or extend the work we are doing.  I love doing cooperative problem solving, and these activities provided students the chance to do this.  

I hope all of you are ready for a full moon Valentine's Day!  If you haven't been over to my Facebook page today, you might want to check it out--especially if you've been thinkin' about purchasing anything from my store in the near future!