expr:class='"loading" + data:blog.mobileClass'>

Friday, May 31, 2013

Five for Friday Flashback (book club, kites, fun field trip!)

I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching and the wonderful Amanda from Teaching Maddeness to share some highlights of my week.  I apologize for being so MIA this week!  I am missing all these great link ups during the week because well, life, has been getting in the way!  Falling asleep on the couch every night while trying to get my schoolwork done is getting O.L.D.!!  I can't wait to have a break from daily planning and grading (then, I can have more time for blogging! lol).  
My little girl turned SIX on Wednesday!  We were thrilled because her checkup after her tonsil/adenoid surgery was the morning of her birthday and she was cleared to go back to school!  Daddy brought her into school with her birthday treat and all her friends ran up to her and gave her lots of hugs and love.  I wish I could have been there:(
She had her family birthday party on Sunday.  Her friend birthday party is tomorrow at a Little Diva Day Spa for girls ages 3-12.  She is having seven little girlfriends join her for a couple hours of pampering fun with a fairy theme!!
Here she is at the Memorial Day parade with her favorite present from Grandma (crutches for her doll!).  
My little buddy, Charlie, loved the parade and firetrucks too:)
Wednesday was "K day" for "KITE DAY!"  
Our students are LOVING the ABC countdown calendar that I read about here at the amazing Amanda and Stacia's blog, Collaboration Cuties.
It was the perfect day to fly a kite with a great breeze and some cloudy skies.  I lost count of how many students told me that this was their first time EVER flying a kite!
A student from my homeroom and ELA class won 2nd place in an essay contest for the county!!  The American Legion sponsors an essay contest on the topic, "What the American Flag Means to Me."  There were over 1,100 entries and representatives from the Legion made a special trip to our school to present our winner with his prize of $75 in front of his classmates!  I videotaped the presentation as well as the student reading his essay to the entire 4th grade.  I will give a copy of the video to his parents.
Proud student moment right here!
I FINALLY had my walkthrough observation on Thursday!!  We had a formal observation back in the fall and the walkthrough is new this year.
Good news?  It's over and I have that weight lifted off my shoulders!
Bad news?  I now have to write a formal lesson plan and have all my artifacts ready for Monday.  We have to keep 24 artifacts throughout the year (needed 12 at formal observation and 12 more after walkthrough) to address domains one and four of the Danielson Rubric evaluation system for teachers.  They also cannot be just ANY artifacts.  The artifacts must be one of the three "recommended artifacts" from our negotiated rubric.  
So, my principal walked in right before ELA was about to begin and we worked on our Book Clubs!!  I think it went well (I hope!) and I had created these forms that the students already had.  I will blog more about how Book Clubs went and the forms I created after the students finish their final meetings (June 11th).  One thing is for sure about my book clubs...the learning is DEFINITELY student centered!

Today we took the students on one of my favorite field trips!  The 4th grade classes toured Chautauqua Institution (founded in 1874).  
This is the only one of the "Grand Hotels" with wood frames that have survived from the 1800's.
This is a picture of the amphitheater where a bustle of activity takes place all day every day throughout the summer!!

Although I still have three weeks of school left, I can't help but notice that many of my BBB's are on summer vacay!  I was hoping you could complete a quick survey about how you would like to continue "Tried It Tuesday" over the summer (thanks for the idea Amanda and Stacia!).  I am loving all the ideas linked up every week and am happy to continue the linky each week as long as there is interest!  I just don't want to overwhelm anyone or make my normal link ups feels pressured to link up each week:)  I know I will be blogging more over the summer but I don't know if that feeling is the norm.  Please take the quick survey to give me an idea of how to proceed:)  Thank you so much for your support!  XXOO

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tried It Tuesday-Social Media Buttons!

So, a Tuesday after a looonnng weekend is a bummer.  I am still in total weekend mode but need to get my act together quickly!  We have four weeks left with students (can we say countdown?!?) and I don't even know where to begin.
Tried It Tuesday is here and for all of you on summer vacay catching up on blogging while drinking your morning coffee, I am pretty jealous.  I know my turn will be here soon though:)  The summer is when I started blogging I can't wait to be able to read more blogs on a regular basis soon!

If you are new to Tried It Tuesday, read more about it here.

My Tried It:
Making Social Networking Buttons!
As you may know, I finally started a facebook page for my blog.  I tried unsuccessfully last week to install a facebook pop up for new visitors to my blog.  I'm pretty sure that was a failed attempt at HTML code.  However, my "testers" were not visiting my blog for the first time, so I don't know if there is a way to know for sure since it is only supposed to pop up for new visitors.  I agree that pop ups are annoying but I wanted to spread the word somehow especially since I didn't have those nice little social media buttons on my sidebar.  I have been admiring  these little buttons on everyone's blogs for awhile and then thought it was time I tried to figure out how to do that!
Do you see my little buttons now on my right sidebar?  I made them all by myself!  
(Can you tell how proud I am?!?  Sometimes it's the little things!)  
And NO, I did not design my blog!  That just scares me! I have virtually no blog designing experience or computer based design experience period.  
My blog was designed by the amazing Diana at Custom Blog Designs and the talented Michelle at The 3AM Teacher designed my threaded comments:)  However, if your blog design is lacking these little buttons, keep reading to see how I created my own!
1.  First, I created the pictures using Powerpoint.  For more detailed instructions on using Powerpoint to create layered images, see this post by SThomping Ground.  The images I took from my blog design package, Misty Cato's I Can Fix It.  Here is a screenshot of the PPT creations:
I did not use the "e" for email yet because I am not sure how to link it.  When I click on other blogs' "email button" I get a new email application trying to walk me through the setup process and it doesn't show their email until I complete that.  So, for now, I just have my email still listed on my "About me and contact" page at the top of my blog.  I also didn't use the "normal" P for Pinterest but I figured that most readers would know what the "P" stands for. :)

2.  I grouped the images in each picture by selecting all the images and right clicking (control click on Mac).  Select Grouping and "group".  
Save the grouped image as a picture by right clicking again.
3.  I uploaded my images to photobucket and copied the "Direct Link" for one photo at a time to add to my blog.  

4.  I selected "Layout" and "Add a Gadget" from blogger.  Then, select the add "HTML" option.  I used the code I found from SThomping Ground.  

<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="YOUR LINK" id="twitter-link" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="YOUR DIRECT LINK FOR IMAGE" /></a></div>

I replaced "YOUR LINK" with the link for my button and replaced "YOUR DIRECT LINK FOR IMAGE" with the direct link code I copied for that image from photobucket.

5.  Little problem!  My buttons appeared HUGE on my blog!  I searched for an answer and found this post by Olivia at My Favourite Things.  The "70 width" worked for my blog with the first try!  This is the code that I pasted in the HTML add a gadget box (minus my direct links for sites and pictures in purple).  This is the code for all FOUR buttons.  All four codes were pasted in the same box and came out horizontally in my right sidebar with the code like this. 

<a href="YOUR LINK" id="twitter-link" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="YOUR DIRECT LINK FOR IMAGE" height="70" width="70"/></a><a href="YOUR LINK" id="twitter-link" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="YOUR DIRECT LINK FOR IMAGE" height="70" width="70"/></a><a href="YOUR LINK" id="twitter-link" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="YOUR DIRECT LINK FOR IMAGE" height="70" width="70"/></a><a href="YOUR LINK" id="twitter-link" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="YOUR DIRECT LINK FOR IMAGE" height="70" width="70"/></a>

Here is the code for ONE button:
<a href="YOUR LINK" id="twitter-link" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="YOUR DIRECT LINK FOR IMAGE" height="70" width="70"/></a>

I hope this may help someone who would like to add some easily accessible buttons to their sidebar!  You will be so pleased with yourself after it actually works!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Optimum Organization...maybe someday?!?

 Ahhh...an organization linky!  I am really striving to be organized but I have SO much work to do this summer in my storage closet and filing cabinets.  I plan to take pictures of that mess and then show you before and after pictures after it is done this summer!  

For now, I am linking up with two amazing ladies, Elizabeth at Fun in Room 4B and Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files for their Optimum Organization linky.  All the ideas I am sharing with you below are new organization techniques that I implemented this year.  Most of them have worked out great but I still need to tweak some too. :)

 You can read more about this hanging pocket chart here and more about the storage cart here.
Read more about the pencil containers here.

Read more about the editable schedule cards here.

My biggest organization disappointment was one of my summer projects that I made to keep my writing and reading conferences for Daily 5 organized.  I worked to make a divider in this binder for each student with pages to record notes for writing and reading conferences.  
Why did it disappoint me?  It was too large and cumbersome to carry everywhere and I found that the conferences needed to be fairly quick if I could get even close to fitting them in.  My plan this summer is to get organized again and use some sticker labels for individual conferences like this idea by Jivey at Ideas by Jivey.  I can carry around a clipboard and stick my notes from the label into my binder later!  This will be so much easier to manage.

I can hardly wait until summer to begin organizing even more areas of my classroom!  
It is in dire need!!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Spark Student Motivation Saturdays (power of CHOICE!)

Happy extra long weekend Saturday!  I am linking up a Student Motivation strategy with the amazing Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching.  I just love this gal and she has the best ideas for motivating students!  I have found that weekly linky parties have really challenged me to blog about topics that I might not have thought to mention.  It has helped me stay focused.  I might not always link up with all my BBB's but I try to as often as possible:)  I also love the networking that linky parties generate!
I didn't have any idea what I would be blogging about this Saturday until Thursday in my ELA class when THIS happened:
I know it is difficult to see their expressions completely but I think you can see the students' overall excitement!  You might be wondering, "What is in the black and white box?"
Answer:  BOOKS for our new book clubs starting next week!
A few months ago, I purchased Laura Candler's Classroom Book Clubs resource.  I really liked how this resource gave me printables and a video guide for introducing the concept of book clubs step-by-step.  This is not your traditional "literature circles" with student roles.  We haven't started officially yet but I think this will be a great activity for the end of the year and really get the students motivated to read even more!

We began a unit called "Animals are Characters Too" in ELA last week and read a nonfiction piece about wild horses while working on the skill cause and effect.
Last year we read a whole class novel, Misty of Chincoteague.  I LOVE this book.  Although I would love to have every student read it again this year, I decided to try book clubs with five different animal themed novels.  
I chose novels with animal characters from what we had available in our multi-copy room:
For those of you who don't know, my grade switches by ability grouping for ELA and I have the top readers in the grade.   The longest novel, White Fang, was actually the top pick in the class.  The students who were chosen to read White Fang have all earned over 250 Accelerated Reading points individually this year from independent reading.  

Anyway...the students filled out a survey of their top picks after I talked about each book.  Beforehand, I warned them to not make any gestures or hints to their "buddies" about their top picks.  If they did, they would be sure not to be placed with that buddy for their book club group.  Some of the 4th graders are very clicky this year.  
Then, I took the surveys and made the groups.  It worked out beautifully because I split the students up, separating behavior problems and all the students were able TO GET ONE OF THEIR NUMBER ONE CHOICES (I told them to pick two possibilities)!
On the day of the reveal, I placed the students in their assigned groups and gave each group a box that they were not allowed to open until I gave the okay.  They were SO excited! 
Here are some more pics before opening the boxes.  Check out their body language!!

Next, I told them that their group could start reading the novel (no more than 20 pages!) over the four day Memorial Day weekend or wait until next week to start.
Guess what?  EVERY group decided to start reading!!  I know my class loves to read in general but I thought there would be a couple groups that would wait!  Boy, was I wrong!
There was only one boy who was reluctant because his group chose to read to page 20 and his teammate told him, "You only have to read five pages a day."  
I was thinking, "Hallelujah!"  The students are going to encourage each other to read to stay caught up with the book club and I don't need to say a thing!
I think I am really going to love this method to motivate my students!
I will blog more about it after it gets underway next week.  I plan on finishing these books in two weeks.  Next week we only have ELA three days because of Memorial Day and the NYS science performance test.
Have you ever used Book Clubs and did you find them motivating for your students?
I would love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Workshop Wednesday (Reading Response: Book Reviews!)

Since I wrote my Tried It Tuesday post early, I would like to begin this post by mentioning the tragic events in Oklahoma.  The families affected by this tragedy have been in my thoughts and prayers.  I can't even imagine a natural disaster of that magnitude hitting while little ones are in my care and feel helpless.  My heart just aches.  It makes me stop and look at all the blessings in my life in these awful times.

I am linking up a little late this Wednesday evening with my amazing BBB, Jivey,
for her weekly Workshop Wednesday.  
The topic this week is Response to Literature.
My first thought that came to mind is a reading response that the students really LOVE!  
So, I am going to cheat a little by revisiting a post from October and focus just on this one method.  It was originally inspired by The Writer's Notebook by Aimee Buckner.
From October:  I love the idea of having the students write book reviews and share them with the class.  I have a class of 24 students and we divided October into four book review days (usually on Friday) with six students sharing each time.  The students LOVED it and asked lots of questions.  We first wrote a book review together based on Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing that the whole class read.  I modeled sharing the review without giving away the ending (SO important!).  Here is a sample of a book review a student recently shared:

Students can add books to their "Books I Want to Read" list they keep in their folders as they listen to book reviews.  The students asked many questions and were really interested in so many of the reviews!  I am putting all the book reviews in a binder by our library for students' future reference.

I downloaded these editable binder covers from A Year of Many Firsts and they can be downloaded here for free!  I love them:)

You can download my book review rubric for FREE here at my TPT!

UPDATED INFOThis is the first year I have tried book reviews and we haven't done them every month.  However, I think this is one of the most meaningful responses to literature I have tried because it is so authentic and comes from the students' own observations and feelings about a chapter book. THEY chose the book because it was a GOOD FIT for them!  In this activity, they are not reading a book I chose and answering questions that I think they need to answer (even though we do have to practice that at times too but the idea is to break it up as much as I can).  

My class loves the days that we share book reviews.  Everyone is required to read at least four chapter books a month.  This was not easy at the beginning of the year even though my group has the "highest" 24 students in the 4th grade (although many are really in the "average" range).  Now, it is a piece of cake for most of them.  Not even an assignment really. 

Interesting fact:  Our library is running an accelerated reader contest for the month of May that ends tomorrow.  
We are competing against the 5th and 6th grades.  
Guess how many points the 5th and 6th grade had yesterday?  
One was in the 200 range and one was in the 400 range.  
Guess how many points the 4th grade had? 
A whooping 1596!!  (We have 62 students!).
None of the grades in the elementary are even CLOSE to 4th for that matter and often the 2nd grade will have more points than even the upper grades.  
Coincidence?  I don't think so but maybe.  
Am I doing anything differently to promote the AR contest? 
Not to "toot my own horn", but as many teachers believe, I also believe that providing a library of books in the classroom, promoting getting excited about books by having book talks and book reviews, by not making reading a "chore", and by providing meaningful reading response activities, students are naturally guided into loving reading and how they respond to their reading.  
I also believe that 4th grade is really a turning point for independent reading in many ways and it could be a turn in the right direction or the wrong one. 
I try to do everything in my power to make it a transition in the right direction.

Tomorrow is my Friday!! Yippee!  FOUR day weekend:)
Hush to those of you on summer vacay!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tried It Tuesday (Facebook stumped!)

Time to Take on Tried It Tuesday!! How's that for alliteration? :)
I am loving all the ideas linked up each week by everyone.
Teachers are the BEST sharers (that's a word, right?) of knowledge!

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:
Facebook for My Blog!
I finally started a facebook page for my blog.  I'm sure my personal Facebook friends were tired of seeing all my comments on teaching pages!  Haha!!  
Thanks to the inspiration of some of my BBB's (Best Blogging Buddies) at Collaboration Cuties and their post HERE, I set up my page easily!  You have to check out their post if you would like to set up a page.  They have many screenshots and step-by-step instructions.
1.  I love being able to share little blurbs and shout-outs or links to recent posts on my facebook page.  
2.  I love reading the news feed on my facebook page to see what my bloggy buddies are up to.  It is more appealing to the eye in my opinion than reading the feed on blogger.  
3.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to change from my blog fb page back to my personal fb page.  It just takes a click of the button in the top right hand corner.  There is no entering of your username or password to go back and forth!
4.  Also, bloggers will often post a question or flash freebie on facebook that you won't see anywhere else.
It really doesn't take much for me to get stumped when it comes to HTML code, but I spent way too much time trying to get a facebook pop up appear to new visitors on my blog!  I wanted something like this:
Was I successful?  I am not entirely sure, but I don't think so!
I tried the html code from many websites (at least three) but could not get it to work.

I tried pasting the code directly in my template (by reverting to old blogger profile after backing it up and then pasting it after /body).  I made sure to type my facebook page where I was supposed to.  Then, to see if it worked, I cleared all my cookies and "reset Safari" so blogger wouldn't recognize me when I visited my blog.  It will only show the facebook pop up to viewers who have not visited my blog before.  So, after all that...NOTHING!
I tried code from all three websites above (and there may have been more but I can't remember now!).  Some codes asked to paste the code as a gadget and HTML script in your layout.  I tried it that way too and "reset Safari" again to check on it.  NOTHING!
I finally gave up.

If you are visiting my blog for the first time, could you write a comment and verify if you saw any pop up?  I still have it pasted as an HTML gadget but I don't think it works.
I am also stumped on how to get the correct "preview" picture when I post a link to a post in my comments.  I can't find how I would select that!  Help?!?

I would LOVE it if you "liked" my facebook page before you go!  Thanks friends!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Must Have Monday!!

The wonderful Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang is hosting a new linky party called Must Have Monday!!  Isn't her linky button by Michelle at 3AM Teacher adorable?
Sabra's new linky is where you link up and find ideas from other teachers that you can't live without in your classroom or ordinary life! 
I had a little blogging break this past weekend while I was trying to get my house back in order and babying my little girl as much as possible after her surgery.  I saw this linky today and thought, "I know just what I can't live without this year!"  
This might not be something most of you haven't thought of, but it was the first "MUST HAVE" that came to my mind!  With my task cards and Daily 5 craze this year, I couldn't live without my best investment last summer...my Scotch Laminator!
Here she is in all her glory at school after being used quite a bit today.
I think I need to give her a name:)
Seriously!  I am on my 4th box of 200 laminating sheets since August!  
The box of 200 is only $20 at Sam's Club and the laminator itself was about $30.  
It is worth EVERY penny!
Check out the new items I just laminated.
by Kristin Kennedy from iTeach 1:1
Here is a pile of future laminating that I have waiting on my counter!
If you are on the fence about purchasing a personal laminator, I encourage you to take the plunge.  There is no more waiting on supplies from your school, going in on the weekends, etc.  The only downfall is I can't laminate large items, but that hasn't been on my to-do list this year anyway.  Now I can laminate any time I want from the comfort of my home!

What is one of your MUST HAVES?  Link up with Teaching with a Touch of Twang or check out the other posts!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Five for Friday Flashback (total randomness!)

I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching and Amanda from Teaching Maddeness to share some tidbits of my week.  I had a crazy week with ONLY two full days total in the classroom, so keep reading if you don't mind the unrelated to teaching stuff:) 

1.  Daughter's Surgery
My daughter had her tonsils and adenoids removed on Thursday!  I took family sick days Thursday and Friday.  She was such a brave girl!  I was shocked by how well she did.  My husband and I were fighting back tears as she was wheeled away on that bed with the rails up:(  But, all went well except one little problem with nausea after the surgery.  She vomited 3x and they had to give her some meds in her IV which worked well.  
Today, she had a great day and has been taking in fluids like a champ!
These are some of her favorite popsicles!
 Here she is resting on the couch today:)

2.  Yummy French Toast Bake
I baked some yummy french toast bake for a staff appreciation breakfast at my daughter's school.  I used this Paula Deen recipe but accidentally cut the bread into squares instead of slices.  I'm sure it was still delicious.  How could it not be with 2 cups of cream and 8 eggs!?!
Of course, I sent some maple syrup from my uncle's farm with the dish!

3. Sad these are gone:(

Yep, I am a total sweets fanatic.  So, of course my hubbie gave me some delicious chocolate covered strawberries for Mother's Day!  They lasted quite a few days (believe it or not!) and now I wish I had more.  It was the first time he ordered from Shari's Berries and they were the best I've ever had!!!

4. Sub Plans Galore
So, I was out Thursday and Friday with my daughter.  Well, Tuesday I had IST (Instructional Support Team) meetings all afternoon and Monday I had a doctor appointment in the afternoon!  The doctor appt. was scheduled months ago so I just went with it.  Maybe it is better to be out all at once! Haha!!  One awesome part about this was that I had the SAME sub all the time I was out and she is an amazing, retired teacher!  She lives right around the corner from me and even dropped off papers yesterday all graded so I could record them in my book!  Amazing...

5. ABC's Calendar Countdown!
We started the ABC's calendar countdown for the last 26 days of school on Monday!  Yay!!  I LOVE this idea from the amazing Amanda and Stacia at Collaboration Cuties!  Check out their blog post for an editable copy to use for next year (unless you wanted to start a little late because I can't imagine many schools have 26 days or more left of school!).  

 Have a great weekend everyone!!  Three of my students are in a county wide spelling bee tomorrow!  I can't wait to see them and am keeping my fingers crossed:)