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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mentor Text {First Snow in the Woods}

Happy Sunday night!  After a fun day in Canada to see a Wiggles show (even with a daughter who is still under the weather), I am relaxing and catching some much awaited fall season premieres.  Anyone else watch Revenge?  It is my favorite new"er" show! 
Since there are five Sundays in September, Collaboration Cuties has a Halloween/Fall theme for their weekly mentor text linky.  Fall is my favorite season! :)
I am linking up a book that I absolutely LOVE called First Snow in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick.  It is a beautiful book and the photography takes me into the woods where I can almost feel the stillness and beauty of that first snowfall of the season.  In New York, our first snowfall occurs in the fall and usually happens at the end of October to mid November.

From Amazon:  Readers are taken on a beautiful photographic journey deep into the autumn woods as the animals of the forest get ready for the year's first winter storm. They hear the cries from the great gray owl who came down from the far north carrying the warning, "Winter is coming early this year! Prepare." From the very first page, readers will be fascinated by the exquisite photographs of wildlife amid a background of vibrant autumn reds and golds. Will the animals be ready for the cold, hard winter to come? Winner of a Mom's Choice Awards -- 2008 Gold Recipient!

Here are just a few pictures I took of the stunning pages in this book:

The book is full of vivid language and imagery.
From this opening line (simile): "The northern lights faded bright to dim, like a distant torch flickering across the cold, night sky" to other lines such as "Dewy webs hung on goldenrod and covered the morning fields" and "Dew sparkled on fragile webs where a family of deer grazed," the reader is enticed by the play of words accompanied with the photographs of beautiful animals and scenery.

Personification is sprinkled throughout as well as the animals prepare for the winter in various ways.
"Have you heard?" asked the red squirrel.  "The great gray owl is on his way from the far north.  He only stays here during the harshest winters."
"In a morning meadow far away, fog tiptoed in without a sound." 
A red maple lead held stubbornly, twisting and turning on its stem.  "Let it happen," nudged the breeze.
The author's of this book also have a blog here and there is a video that accompanies this book!  I don't own it and have never seen it, but here is the movie trailer.

I created this freebie graphic organizer for my students to use.  

Students complete the table by referring to details and examples from the text to describe how the various animals in the story prepare for winter.  Most 4th graders could tell you ways these animals prepare for winter without reading this story (especially in my neck of the woods where it is very rural) but sometimes that makes it difficult for students to actually USE only the text based details.  This is a skill that 4th graders struggle with.  CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

Be sure to check out the other Halloween/Fall themed mentor texts linked up at Collaboration Cuties!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Spark Student Motivation: Reading Letter freebie

I am linking up with my super sweet friend, Joanne, at Head Over Heels for Teaching with a quick student motivation tip.  I have been all out of sorts this week because my six year old missed school all week.  She was diagnosed with pneumonia on Thursday and has had a high fever since Sunday.  It has been a stressful week with my husband and I taking turns staying home and sub plans are always more difficult than just being at work.  
I was working on a letter to send home to parents today regarding my students recent STAR assessment which coordinates with Accelerated Reader program and I thought this would be great to linkup with Joanne.  Our school uses the STAR assessment for benchmark scores in ELA and math.  I am using the STAR assessment to set individual goals for AR points per quarter for each student.  You can read more about my motivational strategies for promoting independent reading in my classroom here and here.  I believe that a key component of promoting a successful reading program is frequent accountability and communication with parents regarding classroom expectations.  The letter I will be sending home on Monday describes my plans for using the STAR assessment to make an individualized goal for each student and then includes space at the bottom for me to write the AR point goal for the quarter, students' points earned to date, and the percentage of the goal reached to date.
 I added this handout to my facebook page as a FAN FREEBIE.  The text is completely EDITABLE but the background is not due to copyright.  I noticed that the text doesn't line up quite right when I view it in Dropbox, but after it is downloaded, it lines up on my computer.  If the text doesn't line up for you, it is editable anyway.  

Maybe this template will spark an idea for a way to track your students' reading even if your school doesn't use AR.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend! :)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

September Swap and Share: Ideas by Jivey's Mentor Sentences

I am so excited to participate in September Swap & Share!  I swapped with my BBB and the super talented teacher and blogger, Jivey, at Ideas by Jivey!  We swapped a product from our TpT stores and tested them out with our classes.
Jivey is a fellow 4th grade teacher, so it was a perfect match!
I already knew that I would be implementing her mentor sentences with my 4th grade ELA classes this year so it was an easy choice for the swap.  I could barely wait to get back in the swing of school to try it out for the first time!  
Here is the preview of her First 10 weeks of Mentor Sentences:
 They are on sale right now at 20% off from 9/26-9/29 in her TpT store!!
I printed the unit out and placed it in its own binder.  
Here is the Table of Contents.  I still want to add dividers for each week.
Last spring I was wondering what these "Mentor Sentences" were all about.  I wasn't really sure.  So, I purchased two books recommended by Jivey.  
They are Everyday Editing and Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson.  I highly recommend these books to anyone considering using mentor sentences in their classroom.  It just opened my eyes to a new world of how to teach grammar and developing good habits as writers.  As stated in Everyday Editing, here is a quote by Francine Prose in Reading Like a Writer (2006) that really hit home for me:  "One essential and telling difference between learning from a style manual and learning from literature is that any how-to book will, almost by definition, tell you how not to write...a pedagogy that involves warnings about what might be broken and directions on how to fix it--as opposed to learning from literature, which teaches by positive model."

Jivey's Mentor Sentences product adheres to this philosophy outlined in Jeff Anderson's books by teaching writing and grammar using example mentor sentences from carefully selected texts.  Each week there is a new text that the "mentor sentence" was taken from.  
I officially began using mentor sentences last week with my 4th grade ELA classes (three of them since we are departmentalized).  Last week was my second full week of school.  The mentor text was First Day Jitters which I had already read to my classes on the first day of school.  Although I was nervous to get started and wasn't sure how it would all work out since this was a brand new way to approach grammar for me, Jivey's directions in her pack couldn't have been more clear.  She clearly lays out all the directions, answer keys, and the layout is so user friendly!  

This is a picture of a student's work for that first week of mentor sentences.  As you can see from my labels, each day there is a new "invitation" for students.  
Using Mentor Sentences to teach grammar
As Jeff Anderson states in Everyday Editing, "Yes, we deal with whole texts--but zooming in on a whole sentence can be very effective.  By zooming in, kids can more easily discover the patterns we want them to identify and use...It's far more inviting for students to concentrate on what works in a sentence than to rip one to shreds.  After all, writing is an art."

So, that first day, I passed out the mentor sentence, students glued it in their journal, we read it together and I asked them what they "noticed" about the sentence.  Me: "Is there anything you notice or observations you can make about this sentence?"  You could have heard a pin drop!  Even my top students were puzzled.  So, I gave them some ideas without focusing on parts of speech.  I asked, what do you know about Sarah?  Then, hands shot up!  
Student: "I know Sarah is nervous."  
Me: "How do you know?"  
Student: "It's the first day of school."
Me: "Do you know that from this sentence?"
Student: "Yes, because it says her hands are cold and clammy."

Bingo!  Do you see the value here?  TEXT BASED EVIDENCE!!  Time spent each day on Mentor Sentences (10-15 minutes) is not simply teaching grammar as an isolated skill.  It is teaching the students to notice the vocabulary and word usage of a sentence to determine its meaning.  They are learning how to use the sentence or text to make inferences. At the same time, they are also noticing examples of good writing and applying those examples to their own work!  Genius!!  

My students' favorite day was probably Thursday where they were given the "Invitation to Imitate".  Everyone was so proud to share their sentence with the class and then I chose two examples from each section to post on my "OWL"standing sentences pocket chart.  They were able to write with a marker (ooo la la!) on a colored sentence strip for all the 4th grade to see.  I focused on choosing sentences that made sense and used vivid adjectives (many students love using the adjectives bad, good, big, and fat!).  I keep telling myself that it was only week one. :)
Since I have three ELA classes, I decided to write the sentence using Notebook software to display on my SMART Board each day.  I forgot to take a screen shot of day one where we brainstormed what we noticed but you can see from the student example above, we only recorded a couple things.  I didn't want to overwhelm them this first day and took their lead.  We added to the file on Tuesday by labeling the parts of speech, on Wednesday we wrote a revised sentence, and I typed a student example in for Thursday's invitation to imitate.  Everyone had their own example written in their notebook.

The grammar topic that we discussed in more detail during week one was subject/predicate and possessive nouns.  You can see part of our notes from the mini lesson in the student's notebook picture.   I am using pages from our reading series (Treasures) grammar book component for notes and some practice with the skill.  The students cut out the definition from the handout to glue in their journal.  Then, when the students refer back to it later, all of them can actually read it!  
Note:  Fourth graders are not the best notetakers and many of them can't read notes later. :)

Here is a picture of the chart paper displayed in the classroom with the table of contents for grammar.  The front of our journal will be used for work on writing and responding to texts while the back of our journals (starting on the last page and working backward) will be used for grammar mini lessons with notes and mentor sentences.  I used the notebooks in a similar way last year but this is my first time trying to use a table of contents for both sections.  We'll see how that works and what tweaks I will make for next year. :)
Jivey also made this Interactive Language Arts Notebook Companion to First Ten Weeks: Mentor Sentences!  This pack includes an interactive notebook element for a grammar skill each week.   
This is an amazing addition to mentor sentences!!  Only the First Ten Weeks Companion is available right now but Jivey has assured me that she is working on companions for the other two units and the second one is well on its way to being finished! :)  I used the possessive nouns foldable for week one:  

Here is the mentor sentence for week two from Enemy Pie displayed on my SMART Board.  Remember how I could hear a pin drop when I asked them what they noticed in week one?  Already by the second week, this had improved!  This time, I had them write down a couple things they noticed independently and then we shared.  
Many of them stated what they knew about Dad since last week we wrote that we knew Sarah was nervous.  One student said, "Dad is happy."  Here was a teachable moment!!  

Student: "I know Dad is happy."
Me:  "How do you know he is happy from this sentence?"
Student: "He has pie and ice cream."
Me: "Yes, he is dishing up pie and ice cream and maybe serving himself too."
Student: "Yep."
Me:  "Is it possible that someone could be dishing up pie and ice cream and NOT be happy?"
Class:  "Yes."  (Many students are nodding too!)
Me: "So, we cannot say for sure that Dad is happy based on just the clues from this one sentence."

I LOVE it!!  This is what students struggle with.  When they are asked to give text based evidence to support their responses, they have a difficult time finding where those clues are exactly.  So, just in this couple minutes of class discussion, we were practicing another essential skill for reading and writing.

Here is what we brainstormed in one class.  In every section, someone pointed out that "big" and "giant" are adjectives.  Wahoo!!  Not one student pointed out that in week one "cold" and "clammy" were adjectives!  I couldn't be more excited to see how using mentor sentences in the classroom will affect my students' reading and writing!

I already own First Day Jitters and Enemy Pie, but I asked to borrow the other books from our school library.  They are always great about letting me borrow anything I need for any amount of time (well, I have to return them within a couple months!).  Our librarian also said that maybe for next year she could order the couple she had to borrow on interlibrary loan so that we have a copy in our school! Yay!  Here are the next few weeks all checked out of the library (free!) and waiting for us. :)
Are you still not sure if you want to take the plunge and try Mentor Sentences?
 Download this freebie Mentor Sentence example from Jivey's store and try it out!

You can also purchase Set One, Set Two, or Set Three for 20% off from now until Sunday!!

Still not sure?  Watch this video of mentor sentences in action that Jivey has created in her classroom!

I also wanted to announce the winner of my Pin It To Win It contest Danielson Pack real quick:
Joan, please email me at lillycharlie2915@gmail.com and I will send you the pack! 
I don't have your email as you are a "no reply blogger".  

Now, check out these other September Swap and Share posts! :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tried It Tuesday {Scanning Documents}

Happy Tuesday!!  It's time to see what teachers have been trying lately.
There's always something to try, isn't there?  

My Tried It:
Scanning Documents and Merging PDFs
Our district uses the Charlotte Danielson model for its teacher evaluation system and there are so many components to remember.  We are required to have artifacts or evidence for each of the components of Domains 1 and 4 (Domains 2 and 3 are observed during the teacher observations).  I made organizers for my binder and then listed them as a product on TpT last fall.  Now, for the past couple weeks, I have been working on updating the Editable Danielson Teacher Evaluation Organizers in my TpT store.
While this product was meant to originally just include cover pages and dividers for the domains and components, I added four generic examples of evidence/artifacts for some components over time.

Then, many teachers started asking if there could be more examples of evidence or artifacts that I used in my teacher binder included in the product.  Much of the evidence was unique to my classroom and included photocopies of student work or various documents that I didn't have as digital files.  I decided to get to work scanning the documents since it would be helpful to have them to refer to later for my own APPR binder anyway.  I thought that it would also be useful for teachers to see as many examples as possible of domain evidence when putting their binder together even if they had to edit the evidence examples to fit their needs.

So, as I scanned the documents and incorporated them into one PowerPoint file with other digital documents that I could make editable, I learned a few things along the way!  I put together this tutorial for anyone else that has scanned PDFs that they would like to merge into one document.  This tutorial is for a Mac.

So, now my Danielson Teacher Evidence Binder pack went from 30+ pages to 130+ pages!  I was pretty proud that I figured all this out and found the time to update everything.  The evidence examples for Domains 1 and 4 include over 50 pages.  This is the Table of Contents:

I also added some different choice of styles for cover pages and dividers.  

Is your district using the Danielson model for teacher evaluations?  I always love to give away new products (or, in this case, an updated product) to some people who would like to play "Pin It to Win It!"  If you pin an image for the Danielson product and leave the URL of your pin in the comments section, I will choose at least one winner using random number generator on Thursday to receive this product free!  Don't forget to leave your email to be contacted if you are a "no reply blogger".  Can't wait to see if you win?  This product is 20% off from now until midnight EST Thursday night!  Thanks, friends!! :)