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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tried It Tuesday (Class Dojo)!!

Time to share more "Tried It" ideas from your classroom or home!
What is Tried It Tuesday?  Read more about it here.
I have been waiting to share about this new strategy for a few weeks since I wanted to give it some time to see how it worked with my class.

Awesome linky button above designed by the talented Michelle at The 3am Teacher!
My Tried It:
Class Dojo!
I started using Class Dojo right after spring break on April 8th.
My students were (and still are!) super excited about this program.
Many of them made their "own avatar" at home:
I decided to use Class Dojo as my behavior incentive system in lieu of my star system the rest of the year.  The change is just what the students needed.  
To summarize Class Dojo, students "earn" points for positive behaviors and "lose" points for negative behaviors throughout the day.  The teacher can customize these behaviors.  When a teacher wants to recognize a positive or negative behavior, they can click on the students name and check the behavior.  I keep Class Dojo projected on my SMART board and positive behaviors get a "ding" and negative get a "low oops sound".  It projects the behavior and student's name large on the screen like this (don't mind my retouching out the last names).
I wanted my students to be able to trade their Dojo points in for prizes and had the class brainstorm the prizes.  This has worked great!  Here is the chart we came up with:
After three weeks, each of my two classes (homeroom and ELA) are approaching 300 points total.  They have trade in day every 2-3 weeks and will be able to enjoy a "class reward" when they reach 500 points if at least 75% vote to use points for the class reward vs. individual rewards.  It will be interesting to see what they choose once the class actually has 500 points or more.  So far, no one has traded individual points in on our Dojo trade in day last Friday.  They all have an idea of what they are saving for though!

What I LOVE about Class Dojo:
1.  Students pay attention and try to earn points!  They are excited!
2.  Just by rewarding positive points, students exhibiting poor behaviors will usually stop them without me having to recognize the negative behaviors.
3.  I can keep track of a point system electronically!
4.  There is even an app for your iPad or phone so that you can use Class Dojo everywhere!
5.  When you award or take away points, there is a space each day to write a note about the behaviors.  This is great to keep track of behavior management records or parent conferences (even though I haven't invited parents to the site yet!).
6. It's FREE!

Problems I have experienced:
1.  Sometimes the site acts up.  When I start my class, no names appear and I keep on having to refresh.  Parts of the screen may freeze as well.  When a whole class is watching and waiting, this can be very frustrating.
2.  I wish there was a way to take some points away for trade in day.  Teachers can clear all the points but I only want to clear some of them.  If a student has 31 points and they want to trade in for a prize worth 20 points, I want to be able to show that and give them 11 points left.  My solution was to add a "negative behavior" called "trade in points" and I will just click that number of points for trade in until they are at the right count again.  You can only add or subtract one point at a time from each student, although you can award multiple students a point at the same time.   
3.  I need to keep up with awarding points each day to keep the student's excitement and involvement.  Some days this has been difficult and uses more class time than I would like.  
I find there is so much more value in awarding the points during class so that the students can watch:)                                                                     

If you would like to try this FREE behavior management system, please use my referral link.  
I don't think I get any recognition for it but it does have a good summary of the program.

Check out my guest post on Crofts' Classroom tomorrow!  

Also, I am working on planning a giveaway for (almost!) 500 Followers!  
I hope you will check back this weekend!  
Thank you so much for following and all your support!! 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Social Studies Mentor Text: Charlotte (Revolutionary War)

Ahhh...Sunday night.  Back to reality tomorrow.  We had a busy, fun-filled weekend setting up our first camper at a seasonal site.  The kids are so excited and we all can't wait to relax by the lake in our tiny second home in a couple months:)  
Tonight, I am linking up again with Amanda and Stacia from Collaboration Cuties for their awesome mentor text linky.  You have to check out all the link ups each week.  I have been pinning so many great books and can't wait for the summer to get organized!
This week the topic is social studies and I wanted to share a picture book read aloud that could be unexpected addition to your American Revolution books.
The book is Charlotte by Janet Lunn.
I just happened to find this book last year in some random searching on the internet.  It doesn't seem to be to widely used but I really love it!  It is based on a true story (the students love that!) and offers a perspective rarely seen in picture books about the American Revolution.

Based on a true story, ten year old, Charlotte Haines, faces one of the cruelties of war (family division) when her father, a Patriot, breaks all connections to the British empire.  He shuns his Loyalist brother who has been ordered to leave New York City for the wild land of Nova Scotia!  (Loyalists banished to Canada?? great teaching point!).  
When Charlotte disobeys her father and maintains her friendship with her cousins, he shuns her from the family as well and Charlotte must leave for Nova Scotia with her Loyalist uncle, aunt, and cousins.  It is a dramatic story and depicts one girl's sad story of the effects of war on families in a way that cannot be described without a secondary source like this.  The story is followed by an afterword discussing the story of the real Charlotte Haines.

I am off to read some more great social studies mentor texts and watch the return of one of my favorite TV series, Revenge:)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Secret Message Bread, GIVEAWAY, and Reading Incentives!!

The weeks are just flying by!
I can hardly believe that next week is MAY!!
I am linking up (a day late) with Doodle Bugs Teaching and Amanda from Teaching Maddeness to share some randomness of my week.
1.  Math State Testing
I apologize for not taking any pictures of this momentous event [sarcasm], but we are not allowed to have any communications device including but not limited to (enter a description of about 12 items that we had to read to the students for three days of ELA testing last week and three days of Math state testing this week...I just may have shortened it a little bit by the 4th day!).  If you have not turned over these devices to a teacher or another school official, you must give them to me now.  Does anyone have these devices?  This is your last chance to turn them over to me...
Well, at least the ELA and math tests are over.  Science is at the end of May for the performance and first week of June for the written.   
2.  Toliver's Secret
We started this novel in ELA and the students always love it!  It is about a Patriot spy during the Revolutionary War who has to deliver a spy message but sprains his ankle.  His granddaughter, Ellen Toliver, then has to go on a journey in his place to deliver the message that is contained in a snuffbox baked inside a loaf of bread.  She has many obstacles along the way but finds out that she is really much more courageous than she could have ever thought!  "Toliver's secret" refers to the secret message or to the "secret" that Ellen is really a brave young girl!

We read about Spies and Traitors from this handout from the book, History Pockets: The American Revolution.
The students used the secret code above to write a coded message on a little piece of paper to another classmate.  I bought ready made, rising dough from the freezer section of the grocery store (the students love the smell of the dough and it leads to a good discussion about yeast and kneading).  They put their coded messages inside the dough and we baked them.  When they were baked, everyone got another classmates roll with a secret coded message inside!  To say they were excited is an understatement:)  I forgot to take pictures of them figuring out the messages and eating the nice warm rolls in all the excitement.  They had them right before lunch and you would have thought that the class had never had eaten rolls before.  Although, they were quite good fresh out of the oven! (We are fortunate to have a nutrition center with a full size kitchen just a few steps from my classroom.  I was able to bake them during class and have them fresh out of the oven by the end of class!).
The message was baked hidden inside the roll.
3.  Plant Life
We started our plant life unit this week and planted our Wisconsin Fast growing plants that go from seed to seed in just SIX weeks!  It was a good activity for the week of Earth Day too:)
 We always plant some "experimental" plants (one with no fertilizer, one with no wick, one that doesn't go under the lights, etc.).  The plants stay under florescent lights 24 hours a day and the light gets raised as the plants grow.  I should have taken a picture of the whole assembly and will try to add that to this post next week.
 This is the wicking system that keeps the plants moist.  The plants sits on a mat that absorbs water from the pan below and each plant has a small wicking stick (same materials as the mat) that comes out the bottom of the pot.  The wick extends through the center of the plant and provides constant moisture.
 This is the plant growth and development guide that comes with this unit.  
4.  Reading Incentives
We have a lot of reading incentives that our school participates in.  
Most of my homeroom just earned a free pass to a Six Flags park this summer for reading 7 hours independently over a couple months.
There is now a "Race to Read" reading incentive program where students read just 15 minutes each night for four weeks and earn SIX passes to a family night at the local races.  Each pass is worth about $15 and so many of our families love racing!  Here are some bookmarks and bracelets passed out a an assembly we had this week with a "real race car driver"!
I also promote the Book-It program all year in the classroom.  Students must read four chapter books a month and score a 70% or higher on the AR (Accelerated Reader) test for this incentive.
Our wonderful librarians just started an AR contest this Monday that lasts until May 23.  We are competing against 5th and 6th grade for the most overall AR points.  Before Christmas, the 4th grade beat both the 5th and 6th grade (it was a CLOSE match!), so this race should be exciting too:)
I am linking up these reading incentives with Joanne's wonderful linky for Sparking Student Motivation at Head Over Heels for Teaching.
5.  Giveaway SOON!
I can hardly believe that I have almost 500 Followers!!  I remember when I started this blog, I was SO happy when I had 10 followers.  The blogging community is simply amazing and I have made so many great friends through this little ol' blog!  What better way to thank you for all your support, ideas, and help than by hosting a giveaway?  I have not made a button yet or decided what I will be giving away, but some great gift cards will definitely be up for grabs:)
I also hope that some of my lovely blogging friends would like to help out make the giveaway awesome by donating some amazing products! 
Would you be willing to help out?
Fill out this form with the details and I will be in touch soon:)
Thank you so much for all your love and support!!! XXOO

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Let's Get Acquainted Linky (Classroom favorite places:)

I love the fun topics from Latoya's Let's Get Acquainted linky at Flying Into First Grade!
The topic this week is three favorite places in your classroom.

1.  The Meeting Area
Here is the math word wall pocket chart, file organizing pocket chart, Daily 5 (4) posters, and my rug with (tiny) library to the right of this area.
This board now has my owl helpers display next to the math words.  I am loving it!

2.  The Book Box Storage Area  
This has been one of my favorite updates this year in ELA which I modeled after Daily 5.  My ELA is a different mix of students than my homeroom and I used to have them store their materials in cubbies.  This is SO much better!  They take their book box with them to centers and it is always available during writing conferences!

3.  Classroom Door
This is my favorite classroom door that I have had:)  
It just brightens my day each time I look at my little owl students!

Link up with Flying Into First Grade to share the favorite parts of your classroom:)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Workshop Wednesday (Math Card Games)

Day one of math state testing done...two more to go!  
The students thought it was so "easy" today...that could be good...or BAD!  
I know you are nodding your head and saying, "yep!"
I am happy to link up with Jivey again for her wonderful Workshop Wednesday linky:)
This week's topic is math games with cards.
I have only recently started using playing cards a lot at centers.  
I know, I know...where have I BEEN?
Of course, I bought six packs of cards like these at Walmart.  
I wish I had checked the Dollar store.  Jivey said that she can get two packs for $1!
I picked up six different great card games that can be used just about any time throughout the year from two of my favorite bloggers, Amanda and Stacia, at Collaboration Cuties.  
You can read their post about them here.
Look at my students playing these games with partners at a center:)

I also wanted to share a quick game I play with flashcards and facts instead of a typical "Around the World".  With this game, students are engaged more often and it can be done when you just have a few minutes to spare.

1.  Students line up in two lines with the teacher facing the front of the two lines.  Have a cup on a desk or table for each group with some counters in the middle to pick up when they earn a point for their team.
2.  The two students in line next to each other say the answer to a flashcard that the teacher holds up.
3.  The student who says the answer first, places a counter in their team's cup.
4.  Both students go to the back of the line and the next two in line face off.
5.  The team with the most counters in their cups at the end wins.
*I discourage talking in the lines by warning the teams that if someone on their team is talking, they lose a counter from their cup.
**I also try to have one line be slightly shorter than the other line so that when students go through the line once, they have a different partner to face off to the next time around.

Check back at Jivey's Workshop Wednesday for more ideas on how to use cards in math!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tried It Tuesday (Shared Writing Journals!)

It's Tuesday and time to share more "Tried It" ideas from your classroom or home!
What is Tried It Tuesday?  Read more about it here.

Awesome linky button above designed by the talented Michelle at The 3am Teacher!
My Tried It:
Shared Writing Journals!
I started using shared writing journals this year after reading about them all summer in the blogging world.  You can read more about making them in my post here.
I started the year with these four journals.  These covers I picked up from my blog idol (the reason I started blogging myself), Tara at 4th Grade Frolics.
 The Avery stickers are placed inside the journal and when students finish their entry, they place a sticker into their "individual writing journal" to keep track of finished journals.

Stickers placed in front cover of their individual writing journal after completing a shared writing journal:

Entries started out simple as one paragraph and gradually grew to multi-paragraphs following the format learned in class.

What I LOVE about SWJ (shared writing journals):
1.  Students were super excited to write in these when they were introduced.
2.  Students work on their writing stamina on a topic they are comfortable with.
3.  Students work on writing using multi-paragraphs on a topic they are comfortable with.
4.  Students can read other students' entries if they have extra time.
5.  Students were producing great writing examples as the year progressed!
What I DON'T love about SWJ:
1.  Students don't love to write (surprise, surprise) and the novelty wears off fast!
2.  Most students don't finish planning their entry and writing it during one center time and need to finish later.  That means there is only one journal and it needs to be available for them to finish at another center time soon.  Sometimes they forget to finish.
3.  Most of my students only finished TWO writing entries this year so far!  This is mostly my fault because I have so many work on writing and word work activities that they can choose something else with the free choice aspect.
What can I do differently to keep the interest alive?
This is tough because it seems like the students really would rather do any activity that involves less writing than it takes to complete a shared writing journal.  Although, I do think that I need to manage this better.  It is still my first year trying a lot of new strategies and there has been quite the learning curve!  
I FINALLY introduced some "new" SWJ's today.  I know, I know...what have I been waiting for?  I guess I was waiting for most students to have written in three out of the four journals, but with our time constraints and the lost novelty of the "old" SWJ's, this was not happening unless I took away the free choice of Daily 5.  One new SWJ introduced was a persuasive topic on whether or not gym should be cut from the curriculum.  That sparked some interest!  I forgot to take a picture of that one but you can find them by Fancy Free in Fourth here.
This journal is about your best friend (easy, right?).  
You can find this in a pack from Fancy Free in Fourth here.

This journal is a compare/contrast of two members of your family.
You can find them by Fancy Free in Fourth here.
Have you tried Shared Writing Journals?  I would love to hear more about how you use them!  
Check out other Tried Its by these amazing bloggers!  
Thank you so much for taking the time to share and collaborate ideas!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Linky (Daily 5) & Linky (mentor text-science)

Where did the weekend go?  Oh yeah!  I spent Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon at an overnight girl's Scrapbook Retreat!  We stayed in a summer camp dormitory and had a blast.  I will show you some pictures of my pages in a future post (too lazy to download right now...lol).  So, that was fun to get away and do some cropping but it left little time for my other hobby...blogging!!  
I am finally linking up with two of my favorite bloggers, Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Spark Student Motivation Saturdays and Collaboration Cuties for their science mentor text linky!  Did I mention that I LOVE these bloggers?!?  
You have to check out these great linky parties every weekend:) 

First up, is Joanne's linky from Head Over Heels for Teaching
Student Motivation Saturdays is where you share ONCE idea/tip/incentive that you use in your classroom to motivate or encourage your students.
I would like to share a self-motivational strategy that I use during Daily 5 (well, D4) centers.
It is no secret that, for me, the most difficult part of D4 has been the free choice aspect.  I have used centers before but always had a rotation and told the students where to go next.  I love the free choice idea of the Sisters and see so much value in it.  However, there are always "those few students" who try to bend the rules.  You know, they are choosing centers where their friends are (which I would have controlled by not giving them free choice) or they always choose the center that appears to have the least amount of work or accountability.  

I noticed many D5 tracking charts floating around but couldn't find one that worked the best for me.  I didn't want to hand out a new piece of paper each week and I also wanted a place for students to "rate themselves" on their performance at centers.

I came up with this tracking sheet for D4 centers:
I post a sign in my room that students use to rate their performance at a center ("How I Did").
3 Stars:  I tried my best the whole time.
2 Stars:  I tried my best most of the time.
1 Star:  I was distracted most of the time.
I use actual star pictures on the chart but cannot figure out how to put them in blogger right now and I forgot to take a picture of the chart.  The students just draw one, two, or three stars by "How I Did" on the chart.  I copy the paper front to back and the students use it for six weeks.
After each center, we "check in" and I keep another chart and mark next to a student's name every time they have two stars (no one has had one star:).  I used to use this information for my owl chart behavior incentive, but since switching to Class DOJO, I can now just take points off there when they are off task.  It is a great self motivator for students to try their best.  They also know that during "check in" time, other students will be sure to let me know if there were students off task and not following D4 rules.  They know not to interrupt my conferences during center time and to wait until check-in time.  If I notice a disruption, it usually just takes "a look" from me but then that means they will not get 3 stars!

Next, I am linking up with Amanda and Stacia at Collaboration Cuties for their mentor text linky. This week the topic is science.  I LOVE, LOVE the Seymour Simon books, particularly the Smithsonian Series.  

He has written more than 250 books for children!  His books have some of the best photographic, engaging illustrations that I have come across in a picture book.  

The text is challenging enough for 4th graders whereas it is usually too difficult for younger primary readers although they would find the pictures interesting.  I love that I can use his books to introduce a topic or to engage the class in new vocabulary development or note taking.  Combined with the illustrations, the students are very engaged.  When I do my natural disasters nonfiction writing task aligned to the core standards, I use Simon's Hurricane book as a mentor text.

When I was searching for some pictures of Simon's books, I came across this information:
"You can visit him online at www.seymoursimon.com, where you can read "Seymour Science Blog," participate in "Writing Wednesday," and download a free four-page teacher guide to accompany this book, putting it in context with Common Core objectives. Many of Seymour's award-winning books are also available as ebooks."

What?!?  Of course, I had to check out the Seymour Simon Science Blog and the Blog access to the Smithsonian Series!  Then, I figured out that if you register for a FREE educator account, you have access to so many teacher guides to accompany his books!!  I am not sure if this link for the Teacher Guide for Hurricanes will work, but I could access the "Teacher Guides" on his blog after I registered for the free account.  Check it out here!

Have a great week everyone and I hope to see you back on Tuesday for a new Tried It!