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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Planning a Giveaway...and STEP-UP to WRITING!!

It just creeped up on me...Wow!  I can't believe I have over 200 followers:)  Thank you to everyone that follows my little ol' blog.  Since I began this journey in July, the blogging world has really revolutionized my teaching and I can't thank you all enough!  So, I am planning a 200 follower give away with a great prize ($30 gift card) and would like to see if there is anyone interested in donating a teacher's product from their store for my giveaway.  My sweet friend Kelly from Teaching Fourth has already volunteered.  So, please leave a comment if you could help me out.  I would be so grateful!!  I would like to start the giveaway Saturday, October 6th.

UPDATE:  I have several blogging friends that have so generously agreed to donate a product for my giveaway!  See the awesome list of bloggers in the comments.  Thank you!!  I can always use more volunteers too:)  I have created this button in anticipation of this giveaway!

We just finished our third full week of school and have gone full swing into implementing three components of Daily 5 (Read to Self, Read to Someone, and Work on Writing).  I am linking up with Amanda at Teaching Maddeness and her Friday Flashback Linky.

My 4th grade students have really had a tough time with writing stamina and we have only been working on "easy" writing topics.  I started strategies from Step-Up to Writing this week.  I love this resource that our district has implemented for about 10 years now!  Does anyone else out there use it?

I also made up this writing notebook rubric based on Aimee Buckner's rubric in the Notebook-Know How: Strategies for the Writer's Notebook.  Students glued it to the inside cover of their journals to refer to throughout the year.  You can see it here at my TPT store.

I plan to use this rubric to grade their journals every 5 weeks.  How do you assess your writing journals?  I think it will help making students accountable for finishing their entries and taking their CUPS (capitalization, usage, punctuation, and spelling) more serious.  They are so relaxed with grammar at this time of year!  

So backing up three weeks....this is how our "Work on Writing" has taken shape so far....

We decorated writing journals and they are a big hit.  Students really seem to love their journals.  You can read about them here.  After starting the training for work on writing (expectations, anchor chart, correct/incorrect modeling), we worked on our stamina writing about our names (see post here).  I used this book with the lesson:

The most difficult part for me has been to just let them write without butting in over their shoulder.  I really want them to get comfortable writing without worrying that they are doing it "wrong".

Next, students wrote about three items from their decorated journal covers and why they are important to them.  We also did an entry using this prompt:  One time I was in trouble and I really should not have been was...  This was based on reading Tales of Fourth Grade Nothing and the part when Peter gets in trouble when Fudge falls off the jungle gym and knocks out his teeth.

So, I just let the students write all three of those times and really work on their stamina.  They did improve each time.  Then, this past Thursday, we did our first lesson on writing a paragraph using a Step-Up strategy.  Students write a topic sentence, reason/facts/details, explain reason/facts/details, and conclusion and highlight each part.  The topic sentence and conclusion are green, the reasons are yellow, and when they explain a reason it is highlighted pink.

My 4th graders always struggle the most with their topic sentence (they want to answer the questions and give a lot of details in the first sentence) and the "explains" (pink) are very difficult as well.  I posted these notes on the SMART board and I wrote the sample paragraph together with them.  I always model coming up with a paragraph "on the spot" and how I erase and change things around that they don't like.  We discuss how good writers do that and I also model rereading what I write throughout the process.

The students took notes and copied the "sample" paragraph starting in the back of their journals.  I am trying something new this year as suggested in the Notebook Know-How by Aimee Buckner.  Students are recording free write journal entries starting in the front of their journals and working their way to the back and they are recording class notes starting in the back of the journal and working their way to the front.  

My students were required to write a topic sentence for a paragraph about a hobby of their choice for a ticket out the door.  This took more than five minutes for 24 students since many had sentence fragments, run-ons, and were trying to write most of the paragraph in one sentence.  We will keep working on it!

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend:)  Remember to check back next Saturday for my giveaway!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fun Friday and Shout Outs:)

TGIF!!  I am looking forward to a rainy, relaxing weekend with my family.   I love this time of year...cooler weather, football, season premieres, and a new school year.

I am linking up with the wonderful Kelly at Teaching Fourth and the amazing Cynthia at Second Grade Pad for Fun Friday!

I just had to share this fall activity that is one of the students' favorites.  Who doesn't LOVE spending time outside hiking in the woods?  We are so fortunate to have hiking trails, a creek, and a pond behind our school on school property!  Our first science unit is the living environment and we have crayfish in the classroom to "study".  Of course, we take a hike and check crayfish in their natural habitat!

When we do an activity outdoors, I like to have an organized "plan for scientific observations".  It makes me feel better:)  So, one thing we discuss is what we will talk about on our walk.  Students talk about observations they see around them on our walk and we stop often to look around.  We saw a snake, chipmunks, fish, animal droppings, many burrows, and of course, crayfish on our hike.  We also bring our science journals and record observations and drawings.  I told them to write down three observations and they do not need to be in sentences (for a change!) but they cannot be just one word observations.  The students did a great job and really acted like scientists on a mission.  Here are a couple snapshots of this favorite activity:

Do you have a favorite activity that you do outdoors in the fall with your students?  How do you keep it focused on the topic?  I would love to hear your ideas!

My bloggy friend, Laura, at Love to Teach is having an amazing 3-day giveaway where there are a ton of prizes offered each day!

Today, I am giving away my Math Meeting Notebook files (190 files for the whole year) to one winner in her giveaway!!

So, head on over to Love to Teach to enter and check out all the great prizes!!  

Also, you have to check out this awesome giveaway at Heather's Heart.  Her blog is amazing and she is such an inspiration!

 Have a great weekend and happy fall!!  I am off to check out all the sales at TPT:)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Flashback Linky (writing journals and Daily 5!)

I survived my first full week back to school!!  In ELA, I started implementing so many new strategies that I found this summer in bloggy world.  Today, I am linking up with Amanda at Teaching Maddeness for her Friday Flashback to share a couple of the new ideas I tried:

I read about decorating writing journals at the Love 4th Grade blog.  In August, I blogged about my plans for having students decorate my journals and made my own sample.  You can read more about this idea and get my decorating journals FREEBIE HANDOUT here.  This is a snapshot of the handout I used.

So, the students absolutely LOVED this idea and I really do think that it creates more pride and ownership for their writing space.  Here is a picture of some of the journals just before I mod podged them:

I was amazed at how difficult it was for students to work on writing for even five minutes.  I read about the name activity in the Notebook Know-How by Aimee Buckner.  

I downloaded these handouts to use with the writing about your name strategy from Super Pig and Tyrant King.  Click here to get her handouts.

First, I had students complete the first worksheet in class.  Then, I assigned the "Investigating My Name Interview" for homework to interview a parent/guardian.  The next day, without discussing the "Work on Writing" rules, I had students free write for a few minutes about their name in their first journal entry.  I told them that they could write anything.  Ready, set, go!  I was curious how the students would handle work on writing.  I have the top third of the 4th graders in my class.  So, the first student raised their hand immediately.  I walked over to this bright student and he asked me, "What am I supposed to write about my name?".  I replied, "Anything you want.  You have a lot of information."
Next, a student raised his hand and said, "I'm done."  This was after writing two sentences.  

This was a great learning experience for me to see where the students are in their writing stamina.  We have already began Read to Self and made an anchor chart, modeled the correct/incorrect behaviors and have been working on stamina (they only lasted 2 min. 30 sec. the first time we tried it...and these are the top readers in the grade!).  

We discussed the percentage of time spent working on reading vs. working on writing since they were young.  Most students agreed that it was about 80% reading and 20% writing.  They really have had very little practice writing about a topic freely.  Their name (how they got it, how they feel about it, etc.) is something they should be able to write about for 5 minutes, especially after interviewing their parents the night before!  I mean, they had the worksheets right on their desk and students were "done" without including any of the information they learned about their name!

After discussing the Work on Writing expectations and why we need to practice writing freely, the students did a much better job the next time with their stamina and there were no more hands in the air.  They wrote for an additional 10 minutes about their name.  The next day I had them write about three items they chose to include on their writing journal cover decoration.  

I feel like everything is taking so long to introduce and train for Daily 5 (or my modified version of it) but I know that it will be worth it soon.   We have only had 8 days of school and I can't quit thinking about how much the students still need to learn!  It will come (I hope!).  

Finally, be sure to check out the wonderful Laura's 200 follower giveaway at Love To Teach that will start on September 22nd!!  I will be giving away my morning math meeting for the SMART board (190 files) from my TPT store and she has the BEST of the BEST contributing to her giveaway!

The amazing Kelly at Teaching Fourth is having a 100 follower giveaway with lots of products from fellow bloggers!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Open House FREEBIE!!!

I had an exhilarating, yet exhausting, first three days with my students last week!  I am linking up with Teaching Blog Addict to share an Open House idea.

We had Open House on the evening of the first day of school.  Since that doesn't give us much time with students (one day!) to complete any work to display, I made this activity last year.  Students answer some "about me" questions on this handout during school and then display the other side on their desks for Open House. The other side has the same questions but from the point of view that THE PARENT(S) will answer the questions about their child at Open House.  The object is to see how well the parents know their children and guess what their child wrote down for his/her survey answers.

I love this simple Open House activity because:

1.   It is fascinating watching the parents and students interact as the parents try to answer the questions correctly about their child.

2.  It doesn't take much time to prepare and is something representing the student, not just a handout I created for the parents.  Parents love to see their own child's work.

3.  It gives the parents and children something to do at Open House, especially since our Open House is the first day of school.  There is only so much time that can be spent at the student's desk or exploring around the room.

3.  I usually am pressed for time and it is difficult to get a chance to talk to all the parents.  This activity "stalls" the parents a little bit to give me a better chance of getting to talk to everyone.  It is also a good conversation piece when I meet the parents and see them talking about their answers with their child.  The answers are usually quite funny and allows for easy, upbeat conversation.

You can get the two page handout for FREE here at my TPT store!

I also wanted to give a shout out and HUGE THANK YOU to Jen at Teaching, Life, and Everything in Between for hosting a fabulous giveaway.  I feel so blessed to have been the lucky winner of a $25 Amazon giftcard!!!  Now, I have to choose what items from my cart to spend it on:)  Thanks, Jen!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ready or Not Classroom REVEAL!!...and Currently

Whew!!  My classroom is as ready as it will ever be!  I am so proud of all the changes I made from being inspired by all of you!  I am linking up with the Teaching Blog Addict for Open House week and  Swimming Into Second linky party:

Here is my owl themed door that was inspired by other owl doors on pinterest.  Of course, there is the welcome sign that I made too.  You can read about it here.  The white sign is designating my room as peanut and tree nut free.

This is the view as you enter the classroom door.  My room is really not very big and there is not much wall space compared to some of the classrooms I have seen.

Here is my reading corner BEFORE:

 AND READING CORNER AFTER:  I will be putting the IPICK poster and other anchor charts around as we get going with D5 (at least, that is the plan!):

This is a view of my windows with my no-sew curtains and owl table skirt that I made with a hot glue gun.  You can read about that project here.  The table is all ready with the bin for my crayfish that will be arriving next week:)

 My chapter books are arranged by genre and the AR level is written on the color coded stickers (taped on bindings).

This is my homework board, schedule, teacher's helpers, and math meeting helper board.  I love the new owl subject headers that I laminated for the homework chart.

The editable schedule cards that I created turned out great!  I used the schedule pocket chart I already had.  I printed, cut and glued the cards on colored cardstock before laminating.  There is a space in the chart because 3 days of the week I have two specials in that time slot, not just one.  You can get the editable schedule cards here at my TPT store!

 These are my baskets to turn in homework on a table in front of my teacher desk.  I improved the labels on the baskets:)


Rules posters you can read about here:

Student work bulletin board with glittered clothespins.  This will not fit everyone's work and I have contemplated moving this onto the chalkboard too:

Kidney table area with bookshelf labeled with nonfiction genres (my daughter keeping me company):

Student computer area:

Book bins located on bookcase for ELA block:

Student mailbox cubbies, sink (to the right when you walk in the door):

View from back corner by sink:

View to the left of the door with the unsightly SMART board cord coming from the ceiling:)

There is my classroom (ready or not) to start the first day with students!  I hope you enjoyed the tour:)

Now, onto the September Currently!  I am linking up with Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade:)

I am really bummed that my daughter will be starting Kindergarten tomorrow and I won't be able to see her get on the bus or walk in the classroom...sniff, sniff:(  I would have to take a 1/2 day personal day on my student's first day too and I really need to save my three days for field trips, parent conferences, and Kindergarten graduation.  My school day starts at 7:40 and hers starts at 9:00 (in a different town).  

I am so glad that they had a meet and greet last week and I met her teacher and toured the classroom!  My husband will be meeting her at the bus stop and again at her class to take pictures.  At least she is so excited and never cried for PreK.  She LOVES SCHOOL (I wonder where she gets that from?...hehe).

On another note, I can't wait for all the season premieres...especially Revenge!  Season premieres are one of the many reasons fall is my favorite season:)  

Have a great week everyone!