Monday, June 20, 2016

Monday Made It!

Happy summer everyone!  I've been out of school for two weeks now, and in some ways it feels like it's been forever, and in other ways I know it's going to pass by soooo fast!  I'm so glad Tara is continuing with her summer Monday Made It's because it's pushing me to get some things done! Click on the image so that you can see what other teachers are doing.  There are some amazingly creative teachers out there!
We've had plans since we moved into this house two years ago, to turn our 3-season sunporch into a year-round room.  I had hoped to get started on that soon, but the reality of having put three kids through college means that some other things are taking precedence.  So my husband and I moved out some of the extra furniture that was being stored there, bought a carpet for the cement floor, and my favorite spot has become even more of a favorite place to start my morning off with a cup of coffee.
Sometimes I make things to use with my students and I just don't think about turning them into a product to sell on TpT.  That was the case with this.  I was working with a group of students on fluency, which isn't something that gets talked about as much in 6th grade as it does in the lower grades.  But I knew that this small group of students would be better off if they could get to a place where commonly used sight words, phrases, and sentences would come more naturally to them.

I created these as a fast and fun way to get them reading and feeling success about their fluency.  I was honestly surprised at how much they had fun with these!  These were short and sweet, and they were able to practice on their own with whisper phones or with a partner before proudly reading them to me.
I love growing stuff.  Picked some herbs this morning to hang up and dry (maybe on the sunporch?) This is tarragon, basil in the back, thyme in the front, and oregano.  Yum!

That's it for me!  Link up with Tara and share what you've been working on this week, or just stop by to say hi and take a peek!

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Real Reason for Teaching TDAs or TDQs

When I first saw the changes in the kinds of Text-Dependent questions my students would be responding to, I felt just like the guy in this picture.  How will I teach this?  What strategies do I need to teach?  What are the big ideas?  Where will I find the time?  How will the kids do this?  Why, why, why?  Those questions and an assortment of thoughts which can't be repeated were going through my head.

Buckling down, I introduced my students to close reading, and analyzing how to read a prompt.  And slowly but surely, they started to get the hang of what they needed to do.  This didn't all happen magically or quickly.  We've been working at this for two years now, and each year has been modified, based on my students' feedback and where I see gaps.  

Don't know how to restate a prompt?  Let's work on that.
Can't figure out what the answer to the prompt is?  (This is ALWAYS the hardest part!) Let's work on this together.  

What I do, and what resources I use will come in a later post.

When students would question me, I'd go on a mini-rant about how important it is to analyze what you read AND then articulate those thoughts in writing.  How that was important for them to do as bright students and future employees.  Whether they chose to go to college or not, their ability to write well would help them in almost every career.

But it wasn't until I was working with our Literacy Coordinator on a workshop we're leading this on Text-Dependent Analysis that I began to explore the real reason behind why we're having kids do this. What's the research behind why this is important?

Shamefully, there's little on this.  Google "text dependent analysis" or "text dependent question" and you get the how-to's, but not the reasons why.  Until I discovered this little nuggest from OnHand Schools in Pittsburgh, PA.  I have no affiliation with them, nor do I know if the work they do is good or not.  But they were the only resource I found that provided additional information for me to understand the "why" behind my teaching this, and further supported the reasons I gave my students.

Why is this important?  One of the reasons students drop out of college because the reading is too complex for them.  Students entering college need to analyze and synthesize the information they read. The more we practice reading complex texts with students now, requiring them to be critical thinkers, the more they'll understand what they're reading, later.  The same is true in the workforce, college degree or not.  

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we do this.

One of my students wrote this at the end of the year, "Thank you for helping me work on TDA's,  I didn't always like doing it, but I know I'm a stronger writer because of it." 

{heart melting}

Monday, June 6, 2016

Monday Made It is Back! YAY!

I love that Tara from 4th Grade Frolics is bringing back her Monday Made It linky, because it's chock full of good ideas.  And, if you're like me, once you see some of these good ideas, you start making them, and one thing leads to another.... I am the epitome of "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" when it comes to creating.  Unfortunately, unlike the mouse, most of my projects end up not quite finished!  Anyone else out there like that?

So, this is a different kind of "made it."  
I made it to the end of the year!  While I have loved each year of teaching, this one was just a bit more challenging on several levels, none of them major.  But just enough to make me appreciate the first day of summer vacation a little more! 

And this one is only a "partially" made it, but it'll get done in the next few weeks.  At the end of the year, I always like to do something around astronomy and reading, because there are so many hands-on activities around those.  This year, I decided to change things up a little, and found some really cool projects about our solar system on Pinterest.  

That I had to change, of course. I decided to spend a couple of days teaching kids about our solar system, then the Milky Way, and the observable universe.  And then, just when they felt their minds couldn't handle all these huge distances, they learned that there are about 2,000 exoplanets (outside of our solar system) that are considered habitable.  And they were going to learn about them.

I will have to admit that I "dive-bombed" into this project, and there are a number of things that will be changed next time I do this, including some questions on this worksheet.  Who knew that you couldn't answer some of these questions if the exoplanet you were researching was recently discovered.  Like two months ago?  WHAT?!  Oh, and it's only 600 light years away.  The kids got so used to me saying, "Multiply that by 58, followed by 11 zeroes" that it became a mantra in the room, to change light years into "human miles."

This was the only paper students worked on.  Everything else was paperless, including their final project, which they made using Publisher, Adobe Spark, PowerPoint, Prezi, or even their own websites.  It was an amazing process and I loved how much the students got into it!  They claimed it as one of their favorite projects all year.  {insert big teacher smile}
And, true to form today, this is yet another kind of "made it!"

My son, our youngest, graduated from college, and is on his way to young adulthood.  So excited to see where life takes him!  And almost equally as excited to not be paying tuition any more after 12 years!

That's it for this week.  Link up with Tara and let those creative ideas start flowing!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Keep Kids Reading and Summertime Reading freebie!

I know some of you have already said goodbye to your school year.  We're in single digits now, with just over one week left!  I don't think it really hit me until we took our annual trip to a local camp, locating on 90 acres in the woods.  There the kids got to challenge themselves in a number of ways, and got to see that their teacher wasn't just an old lady, but a decent kickball and Gaga player, stream wader, slack-line walker, etc.  :)
Even the most squeamish kids get into lifting up rocks to find tadpoles, crawfish, and all kinds of bugs!

Working together to get everyone over the wall means listening to each other!

This annual trip always comes at the end of the year.  I love watching the kids work together, and seeing another side to them as their curiosity and hands-on thinking takes over.

Back in the classroom, we're starting our countdown of how many books we've read this year.  My students keep track of all the books they've tried and finished all year long.  We sort them by genre to see which genres are most popular (in 6th grade, it's always been Realistic Fiction and Fantasy, although some years Mysteries have been a close third.)

I give my students this Summer reading challenge.  They have fun collecting beach balls - each one's worth 30 minutes of reading time - and then coming back the following year to show me.  I usually get small gift cards to local stores as a prize.  Of course, you can set the time for each beach ball and whether or not you want to give prizes or not.

 I had to make the picture larger so you could see the beach balls.  Click here or on the picture below if you want to take advantage of this 48-hour freebie!
Feedback is always appreciated!

For those of you out of school already, I hope you're getting some much needed rest!  For those of you still going strong, hang in there!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Can you Teach Compassion by Reading a Good Book?

There are so many good books out there these days!  So, when a colleague and I learned that we'd received a grant to create a "One Book, One School" program for the beginning of next year, I figured it'd be easy to pick the book!


There are so many good choices out there, but some of them are too familiar to our students (5th and 6th graders) so we nixed those.  We said no to:

Don't get me wrong!  These are all great books and should be introduced to students, if they haven't been already.  But a lot of our students were familiar with these, so we needed to dig deeper.
Although this was a HUGE teacher favorite, we had to say no to this one because it doesn't come out in paperback until January 2017!  {insert sad face here}
Here's what we've come up with so far:
This little known book is about a girl with albinism and it's accompanying blindness.  It wasn't a big deal for her in Seattle, where she'd grown up.  But now her family has moved to Sinkville, South Carolina, and everyone treats her differently here.  On top of that, her mother is struggling with depression.

Sounds like a fun read, right?  It was SOOO good! Alice is an easy character to like; she's well-written and takes on all kinds of issues with a sense of humor and lots of curiosity.
Albie is an only child growing up in New York City, with parents who wish he didn't have such a hard time learning.  His mom thinks reading Captain Underpants is for babies, and his dad thinks he just needs to try harder.  His parents hire a new babysitter, Calista, who's working towards her Master's degree in Art.  She looks at the world differently than he's used to and rapidly becomes the person he feels most comfortable with.  As she teaches him some new ways to view things, he begins to thrive.  Although there are some disappointments in his life, somehow, ultimately you feel good about Albie's prospects.
Wendy Mass writes great novels for upper elementary and middle-school students, and this book is no exception.  Like Melody in Out of My Mind, Mia has synesthesia, the ability to see colors with sounds, shapes, or letters.  She's kept it a secret since she discovered at a young age that no one else saw colors like her, and that they made fun of her for it.

When I bought this book two years ago, it didn't sit on the shelf for more than 30 minutes on any given day.  I kid you not!  It was passed from student to student, until all interested parties had read it.
This book, unfortunately, is going to be a "no."  Not because it's not good, just because 5th and 6th graders aren't the right audience.  The book starts when Tara is 11 and begins her journey into OCD.  I jumped on the fact that Tara was 11, without realizing that it takes her into her teen years and dating, and yeah, not the stuff 10- and 11-year olds need to be thinking about yet.
I haven't read this one but have heard good things about it. I may have to pick it up and read it before we finally decide.

I don't know which one we're going to end up with, since we're all reading away right now.  But I'm curious. What books would you recommend?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Show and Tell Tuesday!

Hi everyone,

I'm linking up with Stephanie from Forever in 5th Grade this month again, to share some of the wild and wooly things that have been happening in my neck of the woods!

What's been up with the weather lately?  It snowed about an inch and a half on Saturday, and I have to admit, it WAS really pretty.  But really?  In April?  Don't get me wrong, I love snow.  In December and January, and even in February.  April?

Yeah, no.

Do you ever think that your kids know something, only to read their writing and think,  Oh. My. Word!  If I have to correct another one of these words, I'm going to scream!.  So I came up with an every-which-way-but-Sunday-way to make this a fun review for sixth graders.

They had fun working on their interactive notebooks and playing the card games.  And their writing is a whole lot better these days!
Do you need protein for breakfast every meal?  I do!  And these cottage cheese pancakes are AMAZING!  They taste almost like a sourdough pancake.  Sooo good with blueberries!  This recipe is from The Mood Cure, a very interesting book about food and, you guessed it, your mood.  Really thought-provoking!
No pictures for this one.  
We started state testing this week.
Yeah.  You know what that's like.

Hope the rest of your week is wonderful!