Saturday, August 22, 2015

Fish in a Tree

Have you heard about the awesomness that is Fish in a Tree? It is like this year's Wonder... Now, when I say that, this book in no way shape or form replaces Wonder (which I will love and teach forever and ever Amen)... but what I AM saying is, that all upper grade teachers everywhere should checkout this book because everyone is talking about.


Not to give too much away... but Fish in a Tree is a realistic fiction novel written by Lynda Mullaly Hunt that shares the incredible story of Ally. Ally is a girl who has moved from school to school, her dad is serving in the Army and she goes to bed every Sunday dreading the Rubik's Cube that is school. School does not come easy to her, she often disappears into "mind movies" where she escapes her insecurities in funny ways.  She find friendship in two amazing classmates but also in the beloved and inspiring Mr. Daniels, who is her long term sub. He takes time and interest in Ally, which makes all the difference in the world. Throw in beautiful symbolism, analogies for days and themes gallore. This.Book.Is.Awesome... and that is why it is one of the books chosen for the 2015 Global Read Aloud. If you haven't heard about GRA get the 411 here. Basically, you commit to reading one of the nominated books during October 5th through November 14th. There are chapter breakdowns to follow as well as collaborative Google/Twitter/Edmodo groups to connect with along the way. It is a powerful way to connect with educators who are passionate about reading and literacy across the globe.  When I saw that Fish in a Tree was one of the GRA 2015 selections I couldn't wait to read it. And when I read it I saw it a perfect fit for my classroom. I too made a mind movie, imagining the rich dialogue that would take place.  Because the book is 51 chapters, I knew that I wanted to track my student's along the way, so I created a Novel Guide to help me do so.
 There is plenty to do and discuss with this book. I create Chapter Snapshots, for each chapter they draw and summarize the most meaningful part.  I chunked the book into groups of 5 (6 for the final part) and created questions that go over inference, making connections, predictions, vocabulary, summary, compare and contrast, cause and effect as well as character analysis.  After every 5 chapters I have a 5 question quiz to track along with my students. 

There are several respond to the text pieces. There is an interactive notebook (or can be used for a bulletin board in a flipbook) option. This goes over various story elements as well as character analysis and interpreting analogies. I tried to utilize as many different writing options as possible, because my kids need to know how to write and they need to know how to write well so I created different written responses that cater to character traits, cause and effect, themes, quote analysis and compare and contrast. Embedded in these written responses are Thinking Maps and Sentence Stems to help guide their though process.

I loved this book so much, and I am so excited to read it with my class for Global Read Aloud, but I needed to create some resources for them to analyze, deconstruct and interpret the richness of this novel and I hope it helps your class too. I am going to give one of these away, so leave a comment about what book you love to read aloud to your class and I will select a random winner tomorrow!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

{Week 4} BTS in a FLASH! Student Engagement



This is the last and final week of our Back to School in a Flash link up and this week we are talking Student Engagement!
     I cannot wait to read about how you all engage your kiddos.  Today I am going to share three ways that I engage my students in the areas of first week, classroom management and collaborative conversations.
     Fist off, let's get real and talk F.I.R.S.T W.E.E.K!   The first week is decorated with "Get to know you" conversations and activities laced in between our rules, procedures and informal assessments. I am big on getting my kids to buy in and engage in our new classroom community. One of the ways I do that is through activities that allow them to share a little bit about themselves, in a low stress but structured way!
     On the first day, I love doing a classroom scavenger hunt! Whoo's in our Class is a great way to get the kids engaged on the first day of school. It gets them up and out of their seats, as well as talking in a structured and meaningful way.  I love jumping in and playing too. It allows me that one on one time with the kids to get to know a little more about them. Grab this freebie here
     The first assignment I give to my students is to create a Me Bag.
I always bring in a bag full of 5 things that represent me.  Here is the one I made for last year...
 My 5 items were:
1) A Harry Potter book (anyone else out there a HUGE HP fan?)
2) Two Picture books of my littles
3) A weight/dumbbell
4) An owl coffee mug
5) A wisk
For the Me Bag, I present each item, individually and explain why I included them in my bag and what they represent.  Then I ask if anyone has questions they want to ask or likes something I brought. I also pass around my pictures so they have a chance to check them out.  Then I assign them the same task. They are to bring in 5 items that represent them and give a 2 minute presentation that shares their items.  Grab this first assignment here with rubrics and thinking maps here.
     This year I am going to have my kids share there 4 favorite summer memories in an instagram-esque way with my   newest product, Summer Grams. This will totally engage them, and build classroom community more!
     Next up is Classroom Management. Having a solid classroom management system is essential for teaching, without this, the careful lessons and activities that we spend all night refining and creating, go out the window.  In my classroom, we use a Classroom Checkbook Economy. 
    I use a three tiered behavior system that has rewards and consequences for the whole group, small groups and individuals.  My Classroom Checkbooks is a great way to manage Individual Behavior. I have used it every year, no matter what grade level (4th-7th).  The goal is that students will learn how to be autonomous, in charge of their own behavior, and make wise decisions.  They also learn how to balance a checkbook, how to be responsible and it reinforces math skills. Plus, kids LOVE this. Anything to do with them earning or losing money, BAM! They are instantly engaged and back on task! Each trimester we have a huge market day where the kids can spend their checkbook money. Every student brings in things to "sell", like old books, crafts, toys, etc... imagine a huge class garage sale.  The only things I sell on Market day are coupons. This eliminates the need for a "Teacher Treasure Chest" which saves me money! You can read more about this Classroom Management System here.
     Lastly, how I engage students in Collaborative Conversations...
     A majority of my students are Second Language Learners and having academic conversations intimidates them. Last year I found a fun way to engage them in these meaningful conversations in a low stress and structured way! I created these collaborative conversation sticks which give them sentence stems to help them structure their thoughts, questions and opinions.  I have a set for Math, one for Language Arts and I have also bundled them.  Read more about these collaborative conversation sticks hereThey have made all the difference in the world because now they feel more prepared to actively participate.  They use them so much that it even filters into their writing, which makes this teacher the happiest teacher on the block! 
   Well, that is all for today!I can't wait to read how you engage your kiddos throughout the year.  Link up by dragging the image below into powerpoint, sharing a picture of something you do to engage your students and share your post on the inlinkz feed.  You can grab the flashes here. Thanks for linking up with us, and cheers to a great school year!


Monday, August 10, 2015

Summer Grams { A BTS Bulletin Board}

We all know how much teachers LOVE Instagram! I love scrolling through some of my favorite Teacher Blogger Instagrams to get me in the Back to School frame of mind because I don't start back to school until September.  I love seeing the classroom reveals, new products and suddenly I was struck with an ADORABLE idea that fuses Instagram and Back to School! Student Summer Grams!  As one of our first projects, the students will get the chance to share their Summer Vacation Snapshots on a Summer Gram Bulletin Board!
     Every year my students are eager to tell me the 101 things they did this summer. They LOVE sharing what they do over the summer and I love hearing it because I get to know them a little better. Summer Grams are the perfect way for them to do this because this project is like their own, personal Summer Instagram craft! First, they will brainstorm their Top Four Summer Events
After that, they will illustrate and explain each of their Summer Grams, using the polaroid sheets provided.  
Finally,  they will glue them onto a construction paper backing when to create a fantastic Summer Gram Flip Book! I plan to hang this up for Back to School Night! #BestBacktoSchoolBulletinBoard (I also included adorable chalkboard bunting to hang with it!)
The best part is that most of them have not written ALL summer and this is a low stress way for them to share how they spent their summer vacation while giving us teachers a window into where they are all at. I am so excited to use these this year!  I am going to have them do a little presentation on one of their Summer Grams to get them in the habit of presenting and to build classroom community.

 You can grab this set here at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store! 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

{Week 3} BTS in a FLASH! Decor & More


Happy Sunday! It is Week #3 in the Back to School in a Flash Link up that I am hosting with the talented and fabulous Courtney from Ramona Recommends and Jamie from Not so Wimpy Teacher. This week is all about Decor & More!

     This week's post will not be a Classroom Reveal, instead it is a chance to share some snapshots that show ways to organize, set up, decorate your space.  For my post I am sharing how I utilize those awkward and hard to decorate places in the classroom.  

 Underneath the whiteboard is a difficult dead place to post things.  What I have done is transform it into a turn in station! This is where my kiddos turn in their Center Work.  It is a quick way for me to see who has missing work.

 ABOVE the white board has a similar problem. I have 6 white boards in my classroom- that's right folks, SIX! This white board is on the side of the room where our door is, so it doesn't get a lot of attention from students. PLUS, hanging things above white boards is an especially difficult task for this 5 foot teacher. All last year this was just a plain black space. This year I am switching up my classroom theme from Owls, Polka Dots and Chevron  to a Fancy Fourth Grade Forest. Every forest needs some greenery, so above this white board, I created some lovely rolling hills with fadeless paper. I haven't figured out what else I will add to this once it is done, but it looks WAY better than just black and it will tie in the room's theme nicely.
    Raise your hand if you HATE decorating around switches, outlets, and air conditioning units! They look so awkward and distract the eye.  Well this year, I had a brilliant plan of camouflaging it with some more Fancy Forest Decor.  


Tada! I had a Tim Gun moment and I made it work!

 Last but not least, since I have 6 white boards in my room, plus a Smart Board, some built in shelves,  and a sink... I don't have a lot of actual bulletin board space. So I have to get creative and what I've done is transform the hallway into a bulletin board! The students love having their work displayed outside for others to see. Whenever I change it up, they look to see where there's is and they search with such pride!
This year I got some amazing fadeless paper  that looks like wood from Amazon Prime. I have always wanted to layer my border and watched some amazing tutorials like Kinder Craze's, but I did not have the time nor the patience to measure and use a hot glue gun.  I simply stapled and layered as I went piece by piece. I think they still came out quite fancy!  I love the final product and I created a matching one on the other side of my door so I can share even more of my student's work!

Now it is your turn to join in on the fun! I know some of you have already started back at school or are just about to. If you are like me, I don't start school until September, so I haven't been in my classroom much yet. Don't worry, you can still participate! The idea for Decor & More is not to do a huge classroom reveal, but a snapshot (or some snapshots) of areas in your classroom.  It can be: a bulletin board or a bulletin board tip, supply bins, what you use for bathroom passes, how you keep track of pull-outs, PE equipment storage, desk arrangements... It can be a tutorial on how you've organized your library, your data wall, centers, a classroom theme... it can be ANYTHING and it doesn't have to be something huge or time consuming.  Simply drag this image....
...into powerpoint and share 1 or more things and link up. Here are the flashes to help organize and break up your post! Remember, you have all week to link up.






Thursday, August 6, 2015

Multiplication Facts Mastery #thestruggleisreal

     Today, on the iteachFourth Blog,  I shared about one BIGGEST challenges that my students struggle with, when coming into 4th grade-multiplication facts mastered.  There are always a handful of kids who seem to never be able to catch up and who are always behind in math because of those blasted 6, 7, 8, and 12 times tables. Come see some ways to support and encourage them towards a year of Math Facts Mastery here.




Monday, August 3, 2015

Punctuation Matters and an iPad Giveaway!


 The Teachers Pay Teachers Facebook Page shared this image last week proving how important correct grammar is.

Isn't it hilarious? The reason I think it is so funny, is because of the image it draws in my mind. Well, this got me thinking... I thought that my class would LOVE an activity like this where they can giggle about the mistake, draw what comes into their minds and then correct it!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

{Week 2} BTS in a FLASH! Curriculum Must Haves



This week's link up focuses on Curriculum! There are so many wonderful products out there in TpT land and in the midst of the TpT Back to School Sale, we wanted to showcase some of the must haves that we cannot live without!
 **Oh and there is a big giveaway at the bottom of the post, so keep reading!**
Math Problem of the Week is one of my products that is tried and true and I use it every year....
I love this product because it PERFECT for common core and getting students to become Problem Solvers who Persevere!   I designed the Problem of the Week to be an in class activity rather than an enrichment handout that goes home.  This encourages the students to critically solve these on their own, or with a partner/group, rather than take it home and have a parent or sibling help.  In a nutshell there are 28 problems that span the different CCSS Math strands and ask the students to critically think, solve the problem using various methods and then prove their answer in numbers, pictures and words.  



As for a product that I CANNOT live without, it has to be Jivey's Mentor Sentences!

I have not been shy about how much I ADORE Jivey's Mentor Sentences.  Maybe after seeing me post and IG about it for the millionth time you will check it out? I promise, implementing Mentor Sentences in your class will change the way you teach DO grammar! Jivey has an awesome resource page on her blog that walks you through how to get started using these in your classroom. There are videos and blog post from other amazing teachers that use them too!

Lastly, for what is on my wishlist and what I am going to scoop up during the TpT BTS Sale is from Mary from Teaching With a Mountainview. She creates the most amazing task cards.  The big item on my wishlist for this year is her Reading Skills Task Card Bundle. I work at an inner city school and my classroom is full of diverse learners. Some of the kids in my class read at a first grade level. I work tirelessly throughout the year to bring them up as much as I can.  You can often times find me working through recess and lunch.  During the 2nd trimester I lead a small intervention group 3 days a week in the mornings and these task cards will be a great addition to that, as well as added into my everyday literacy centers.  
     You can join in all week too to share your Curriculum Must Haves! Simply drag this picture into powerpoint (or whatever you feel comfortable with) and share your 3 Curriculum Must Have images on the polaroid below Top Teacher Faves and link up. You can find the flashes here

Now for the GIVEAWAY! The gals from iTeachFourth are giving away $10 to each of their stores!
That is almost $100 worth of fabulous Fourth Grade items! Enter below for your chance to win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
An InLinkz Link-up

There are 2 other amazing Raffles going on from the iTeach3rd and iTeach5th groups! a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway