Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Try it Again and a giveaway

Have you ever tried something you created with one group of students and it worked well?  And then the next year, you tried it again, and you thought, "Huh...why did I do that?"  Well, that's what happened to me this year with my Cause and Effect Scavenger Hunt.

The scavenger hunt part was fine.  I sent students out with a partner in groups of 6, and let them wander around the school looking for causes and effects around the building.  Before they walked out the door, we had a talk about behavior and responsibility and they really did well.  

Talking about it when they returned, they were somewhat surprised at how many causes and effects they found.  It was so much easier than they'd expected.  Which made them that much more willing to go digging into text.  But by the next day, I could see they were struggling in some places, so I started meeting with them in small groups.  And discovered that the passage I'd written about the Dust Bowl could be interpreted several different ways.  And a couple of students struggled with the meanings of some words, so they weren't sure how to determine whether or not cause and effect was shown there.

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD!  I rewrote parts of the passage, and then created another version of the same passage that was a little easier to read.  And then changed up a few things because I can't leave well enough alone!  Gave those to some of my kiddos, and YAY!  They had a much easier time this go-round.

So, here's where the giveaway comes in!  Be one of the first three people to look at the product and follow my store.  Then, leave me a comment with your email address here, letting me know you'd like this and I'll gladly send you a copy!

Have a great rest of the week!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Celebrating a 30th birthday (not mine)

Hi all,

So Cheryl, at Techie Turtle Teacher is celebrating her 30th birthday this week (it was on Saturday).  And yes, I'm old enough to be her mother.  But that's not the point.

Sixty (yup, 60!) teachers have teamed up to help her celebrate and I'm one of them.  So go on over to her blog and sign up for one of her give-aways.  She has three K-2nd grade prizes, one 3rd-5th grade one, and one middle/high school one.

Winning free stuff is always good!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Breathe deeply. Testing is over.

The difference between the week before testing and the week after is really only a few days.  So why does it feel like months have gone by since last week?  Something about the pressure off my shoulders makes me relax a little and enjoy my students a little more.

You know I started using CAFE this January.  And today....well, today was one of those days when things went so smoothly that I actually thought to take pictures.  Me!  Remembering to take pictures!

Here are some pictures of groups of students discussing some of the best books they've read this year and convincing other students to try them.  This was part of the independent reading station, and the other kids wrote down books that sounded good.  We still have a marking period to go, and some of my voracious readers need to hear about more good books!
I loved watching this student gesturing as he spoke.

These students were totally caught up in this boy talking about the Charlie Bone series.

These students were working together to preview some difficult vocabulary before they starting reading a nonfiction story about building the Great Wall of China.  They created word webs to teach each other the fairly complicated words they'd encounter in their reading.

I also had small groups of students working on a Cause and Effect scavenger hunt around the school building.  I created this last year to help some of my students see real-world causes and their effects before they looked for them in text.  The kids had a ton of fun quietly walking around the school.  And they started to look at things like pencil sharpeners and water fountains differently, now that they realized how much cause and effect there is in real life.  Tomorrow, they transition to text!  Here's the link to the scavenger hunt in my store, if you're interested.
Tomorrow is Friday!  And spring is in the air (even though it's raining right now.)  Have a great day and a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

One week until state testing - what's a teacher to do?

What's happening in my classroom this week?
I teach three classes of sixth graders, about 75 students in all.  And I know that six of them are identified as dealing with major anxiety issues already.  A bunch of others already worry enough about school.  So, what do I do the week before state testing?  Honestly?  The same thing I've been doing since the beginning of the year.  If I haven't covered it by now, I'm not going to cram it into their heads in the final week.

That doesn't mean I function without any stress.  Sigh.  I wish I could.  It just means that the calmer I stay, the calmer they stay.  Although as calm as I try to stay, I always feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders the day when testing is over.  Do you feel that way, too?

So, what's happening in my room?  Well, we're finishing up a unit on poetry, we're reading and annotating a more one-sided view of when the Aztecs met Hernan Cortes to learn author's purpose and point of view, we're working on our Reading Olympians words, and we're reading, reading, reading!

I read three different books for Read Aloud - one to each Core (class). 
  I read about this one on a teacher blog last summer and copied down the title.  Bought it in the Fall, had a student preview it for me (he love, love, loved it!) read it over Christmas break, and am reading it to one class.  They beg for extra time for read-aloud!

Then, this wonderful (no pun intended) book.  I love how indignant my students get about the way kids treat August.  And we have some serious heart-to-hearts about how easy it is to judge people based on appearance.  This one really gets them thinking.

And with my third class, I'm reading this one.  This is another good book (although I'm just realizing that all three, this time around, have male protagonists!  That'll have to change with the next set of choices.)  Anyway, this is a book that students connect with pretty easily too, although the time period is very different.  But they connect because Sage is being asked to be something he's not, and he fights that idea for nearly the whole book.  It also generates a lot of good discussion.

My philosophy about reading is that we read and we talk about it.  For these precious few minutes in class, kids don't have to write, they don't have to point out story elements (well, not too often) and they don't have to be responsible for anything except to sit back and listen.  And they love it.

And truth be told, so do I!

For all of you teachers who were on spring break, welcome back!  For those of you who have them coming up soon, hang in there (and know that I'm jealous of you!) and for those of us who don't get any spring breaks (and who are facing state testing) here's to another good week!