Saturday, December 7, 2013

Thank you TpT. What a great gift! And can you help a curious "dinosaur"?

I always love getting the Winter Holidays ebook from TpT because it's full of great ideas.  I end up downloading some and using them.  I try to remember some of the great tips, but I'm learning that writing them down can go a long way :)

This particular ebook is good for grades 3-6.  There's at least one for littler kiddos and one for older guys, too.  I had nothing to do with this book, so I'm only encouraging you to take a look because I thought it had great ideas.  Some wouldn't work for my 6th graders, but a lot of them cross grades easily.  And the best part is:  It's FREE.  Nothing wrong with that!

Here are some ideas I downloaded:  
This one looked like fun.  Instead of doing a reading log or journal entry, kids earn marshmallows for reading a certain amount of time --for my kids, it'll be for half an hour-- doing what the marshmallow says.  There's a page of marshmallows with Christmas themes and another one with winter themes, so you can use either one.  As the kids do the activity, say, reading with a scarf on or reading next to the Christmas tree, they cut out the marshmallow and glue it in their mug.  Then, when they come back to school in January, you hold a hot chocolate and marshmallow party.  How cute is that?

Here's a holiday coupon book that you can have kids color and give to family members.  Kids don't always have presents to give their parents or siblings, and this is a nice way for them to gift a gift of their love or their service.                                                                                                                                           And then somebody (I can't remember who!) had the idea to have kids make RACK SACKS - Random Acts of Classroom Kindness.  They would decorate the sacks and put them somewhere in the room.  Then all the other kids write notes, drop treats in, and just do things to support each other.  I think I'm going to try that with my homeroom.  I really like that it can be small, like an eraser or a pencil or even a nice note.  I'll fill the bags with some treats too, and then the kids can take them home on the last day before break.

I also really loved this idea!  This gives every kid a chance to write about what they want to tell you.  Then, they get to pick one to share with the class.  Everyone wins!
How about you?  Have you found something you're planning to use from this year's book?

And now, I have a Techy Question.  Can you help me?  I know there's a way to create a link between these pictures on my blog and TpT, where they came from.  I know how to create a link with words, and I know how to post pictures by url.  But I can't seem to combine them so that you can click on the picture and get to the other blog, website, etc.  Help!  When I went to college we were using chisels and rocks to take notes....

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Read Alouds, Currently, and a Sale!

My thought was about posting about read-alouds today.  And then, as I read other blog posts, I realized I had forgotten about two things.  Two important things!  The TpT cyber sale, which is a great time to buy everything that's on your wishlist.  Everything in my store is on sale for 20% off.  Plus if you use the promo code: Cyber (remember to do this -  I forgot the last time - you'll get an additional 10% off, resulting in a whopping 28% off.)  That's nice!

And then I also forgot that today is the first day of December.  Which means my brother and my nephew have birthdays tomorrow!  And that it's time for Farley's Currently:
I'm loving that the house is pretty quiet right now.  My husband is driving my one daughter to the train station, my son is hanging out, and after all the commotion of the last few days, I'm enjoying the peace and quiet.  I think we sometimes forgot to slow down and breathe, just breathe.  I know I do!

Thanksgiving ranks up there in holidays for me.  It's great family time, there's little pressure to do anything except eat, talk, and enjoy ourselves.  And I love to cook many of the family favorites that were my favorites when I was a kid.  Plus, I love to try out a couple of new things - this year it was a sweet potato and pear casserole and a new cranberry dish.  Both turned out pretty nicely.

We're downsizing - totally unexpectedly - this was something we thought we'd do five to ten years from now, but a wonderful house came up on the market and we decided to go for it.  Last weekend, we raked leaves at our current house and then raked at the new place (they're only 1/2 mile apart.)  But that's going to get old soon.  Real soon.  Especially when we have to start shoveling snow.  Our house has only been on the market for two weeks, and this week was Thanksgiving, so I need to be patient.  But I'd love for someone with kids to get excited by what this house has to offer.

Still working on and making minor changes to a plan for one of my classes.  Rotating kids through stations seems to work for them.  I just need to make sure I carve out the time to fit everything in.  And the one thing I've fallen down on with them is read aloud.  Can't do that!  They need to hear books come to life!

With read-aloud in mind, one of my other classes and I just finished reading The Cay. This is a great book for the right group of kids.  It's historical fiction (it takes place during World War II) and it touches on racism on a very personal level.  It's a powerful book and the kids really enjoyed it.  I enjoyed the conversations we had and the wonder they experienced as they heard Phillip's attitude towards Timothy and thought about how times have changed (and in some ways, how they haven't.)  
Now I want to introduce them to a different genre.  One of the students asked if I would read The Hunger Games to them.  Although many of them have already read it, a group of them insisted that they'd love to have it read to them.  So we explored that idea and several other Science Fiction books.  One that I considered (without having read it - not a good idea!) was Ender's Game.  The class voted and the vote was tied.  Twice!
So I told them I'd start reading Ender's Game over the break and make my decision then.  Boy, am I glad I did!  Ender's Game is NOT for 6th graders!   By page 2, I was seeing language I'd have to delete and by the end of the first chapter, he'd nearly killed a kid.  And he was only six at the time.  Yeah, it may be a great book, but it's definitely not meant for upper elementary kids.

I wasn't as into reading it, so I grabbed the other book I'd brought home.  What a great read so far!  The main character is a boy who has Tourette's syndrome, and the book deals with that in a very even-handed way.  He also has an ability to shock people, something he tries hard to control.  Until he meets someone else with unusual abilities.  And discovers that people are looking for him.  Hmmm....will need to finish this one and then maybe throw this into the mix?  Or just read The Hunger Games?                                                                                                                                           No sure.  What do you think?
This has been a way longer blog post than I intended.  Here's hoping you have a good week at school!  And if you are lucky enough to have tomorrow off, have a great day!


Friday, November 22, 2013

A great middle school giveaway, shout-outs, and the end of the week

Hi everyone,
Kate, from Kate's Science Classroom has joined with Krystal from Lessons from the Middle to give away two $20 shopping sprees to each of their stores.  This is the perfect opportunity for those of us who teach kids in the upper grades!

If you want to get started on TpT or improve your products click here for some tips from top sellers
A very special shout-out to Katie over at Teacher to the Core for her lesson in how to create beautiful covers for things you sell on TpT.    Her lesson, including video, simplified making covers for me.  It used to take me so long to create a cover, because I did it all using Paint.  Her way?  Make it in Powerpoint.  Oh. My. Word.  So much easier!

Here's one that I've started playing with.  It's not finished yet, but it only took me a couple of minutes to create.  I made this Adjective review for my students to use about a month ago, and I've been so busy with other things that I haven't had time to make the cover page and tighten it up a bit.  I've started working on an Adverb review; hopefully that one will come a little more quickly.

Are your students totally into making loom bracelets?  I commented on one a student of mine was wearing, and about an hour later, I found it on my desk.  Totally unexpected!  And very sweet!  This coming Wednesday before Thanksgiving, students will bring in looms to share their skills with each other.  I bought a bunch of bands, and they're going to teach each other how to make different designs.  What a great way to share!

Have a great weekend!  Next week's a short one - have a great Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Peak at My Week - dive bombing into the deep end of the pool

I haven't been a very active blogger lately, since getting ready to move has taken up most of my free time.  So I thought I'd link up with Jennifer at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings to take a look at what's in store for this upcoming week.
We're moving into a new theme in Reading and it's one the kids really enjoy.  It's about unsolved mysteries and we'll be reading about Amelia Earhart (her disappearance is still being studied, although researchers might be on to something.)  This is one of my favorite books about her because it presents her honestly and explains how, as a woman, she was so ahead of her times.  And that's something most girls today just take for granted.  

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about one of my classes, which has some weaker students and also a number of English language learners in it.  There's another teacher who helps me and I feel like I've been underutilizing her.  So, as we talked last week, we're going to "divebomb into the deep end of the pool" this week.  I decided to break my class up into three groups and have them rotate through three different activities- one with her (story), one with me (grammar or word work) and one independently - either word work or independent reading.  I want to give these kiddos more attention than I can in a whole group.  I'm excited to see what happens!

Do you regularly do that with your students?  What are the pros and cons?  

Have a great week!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Oh Friday, glorious Friday!

Linking up with Doodlebugs for

#1  Getting ready to move has put a real crimp in my blogging!  And tiptoeing around the house, now that the stagers have been here is kinda funny, and just a little bit weird.  Or, as one of my former students wrote, "weriod."  Okay.  Clearly, she still needs to work on spelling!

So this is what my dining room is supposed to look like.  Right.  I always place my napkins in their wine glasses.  Because I drink wine every night?  C'mon - I can't do that AND grade papers!

Do you like the painting in my family room?  It goes nicely with the colors on my pillows, doesn't it?  
Yeah.  Have no clue where it came from.
And actually, I kind of like it.

#2 I was working with my students on adjectives a couple of weeks back, and put together a packet of activities for them to do around that.  I had been surprised that they'd struggled to identify adjectives in a sentence, so I thought I'd start them out easily.  First, we drew a picture based on a simple sentence.  Then, I elaborated on the sentence and had them draw that.  They were amazed at how differently their pictures turned out.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of adjectives.

Now, you ask, where are the pictures?  Pictures, oh......right.  

#3  We spent a lot of time last week and the early part of this week preparing for a theme test, wrapping up our Reading Olympians word work, which, by the way, my kids are loving, and finishing up writing.  Can you tell it's the end of the marking period?  All good stuff - and boy am I glad to be finished with that huge pile of grading.  I don't know how I managed to have so many things due right around the same time.  Oh, and we counted how many books we read this marking period.  77 kids read 638 books!  WOW!

#4  Our iPads arrived.  We were so excited!  Instead of getting 10 per team (we're on teams of three), we got 30.  Cool!  Except that we couldn't download anything on them.  Or sign students on.  Oops!  The tech folks had to come back and reclaim them.  I can't wait to get them back.  I have so many ideas for how I'd like my students to use them.

#5 We start a new Reading theme next week, around unsolved mysteries.  The kids usually love this one, and it's fun to have them all read mysteries during this time.  I don't usually insist that they read the same genre at the same time, but for this theme, I insist that everyone try a mystery book.  Last year, a boatload of kids discovered a new genre to fall in love with! 

And that folks, is about all I can muster right now.  Still more packing to do, and of course, theme tests to grade.  Hold on, while I pull that napkin right out of that ol' wineglass!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Are school tragedies our new normal?

Just read online about the young high school teacher from Danvers, MA whose body was found today. This tragedy coming right on the heels of the teacher who was shot earlier this week.

My heart hurts for these families.  The huge hole of someone's death stays with you for a long, long time. My heart hurts for students, who need to return to school and make sense out of what happened.  And try to figure out how to make their school - for most of them a safe haven - feel that way again.

And my heart hurts for teachers all over this great country, as we try to put on a good face for our students, even as we wonder what in the world is going on right now.

And yet, in my heart of hearts, I still feel blessed to be a teacher.  To be in a school.  Touching the lives of kids every day.

Friday, October 11, 2013

My brain hurts! Reading and Writing in 6th grade

There's so much going on in my classroom these days.  I feel like we're in the swing of things, right?  After all, it's mid-October.  So how come I feel like I'm never quite caught up?  Do you feel that way, too?

Here's my Five for Friday linkup with Doodlebugs Teaching.  It's been a while since I linked up - with her or anyone else.

One of the best purchases I made from TpT about a year and a half ago, were these character traits cards from TarHeelStateTeacher.  My students refer back to them all year long.  Here are this year's students working together to come up with traits for themselves.

I loved watching them realize that they had traits in common.  This activity was good on so many levels!  They learned new words, they discovered how easy it was to transition from traits about themselves to traits about characters in books, and next week, we'll move to a quick review about adjectives, which will support their work in descriptive writing.  Wow!  All that from one purchase!

For the last two days, we've been pushing through some good Common Core questions which have "hurt their brains" as one student told me.  We've been looking at how dialogue gives the reader a chance to learn more about a particular person's character.  And then how their actions give evidence about the kind of person they are.  This is tough for 6th graders, who want to take everything at face value.  It requires them to look beneath the surface of the story and analyze an author's intent.  Wow!  The character traits cards were helpful for them to identify which piece of dialogue they wanted to focus on.  I have some of the most willing students this year.  They were able to hear my comments,go back to work, discussing with peers, then writing, rewriting, and writing some more.  I was really proud of them!

I'm working with a group of students that I want to take on a Common Core nonfiction journey.  In a blogpost last year, I wrote about a project I was doing with students, with each of them reading about a different country.  The study culminated in a Feast of the Nations, with each child bringing in food they'd made from a recipe from that country.  It was a great experience, and I hope I opened their eyes to some of the different cultures around the world.

It's my hope that they learn more about how to read nonfiction while developing an interest in visiting other countries.  Maybe even the one they read about in sixth grade!  Wouldn't that be cool?

The packet is in my TpT store if you want to take a look.

This is going to be my new back yard.  In a totally unexpected turn of events, my husband and I are moving.  Less than a 1/4 mile away.  Just across a main street and back against the park.  Because we weren't expecting to move, we have just a little gobs of work to do on our current house.                

I realized two days ago that we have Monday off.  I'm not a huge fan of Christopher Columbus these days, but this feels like a snow day to me.  Totally unexpected and free!

Hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Writing and Scoot - what fun!

Before school started, I found a fun activity from Yearn to Learn called Swap the Squiggle Writing; it looked like fun and it was free.  I wasn't sure where or when I would use it, but boy, am I glad I tried it out.

Here's what we did.  I gave them each a different squiggle drawing and gave them one minute to start drawing.  Then, when the timer went off, they had to move one seat to their right.  We continued that until five different hands had been on the drawing.  The kids had fun seeing how their drawings changed from what they'd started out with, and they were giggling and laughing when they got back to their pictures.
I don't know if I would have come up with an animal's nose for this picture, but I thought this one was great! Of course, another student added fighter planes up in the left-hand corner, so that changed the way this story would have to unfold.

I told the students that this was the book jacket to their new book.  Now, they had to write the first paragraph of the book, the one that would really grab me and make me want to keep reading.  Since we'd already spent some time talking about choosing books, and what makes books appealing to them, most of them knew exactly what I was looking for.

The activity was so much fun that I asked them if they wanted to keep writing.  Most of them did, so they're going to continue writing and create the first chapter of their book.  The ones who weren't as thrilled about how their pictures turned out will be able to write about other things.  Through this, I'm planning to teach more about the writing process, about keeping the same tense in writing, elaborating on details when needed, good sentence construction, and anything else I think they need to focus on.

I am really tickled about how this random "Oh, this looks like fun" activity turned out!  There's nothing like a creative writing piece to get kids going, and it's not every day that I hear kids giggling and laughing to themselves as they try to match their stories to their pictures.

Does my heart good!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Start a fire in the classroom? Go for it!

Since it's already Saturday evening, I've decided to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for a late Five for Friday and Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Spark Student Motivation Saturday.  Maybe I'll get this posted before Sunday!

One of the things I love about teaching kids is their unbridled enthusiasm.  And nowhere is that apparent than when I have them working in groups to show me how they would survive if they crash-landed in a certain location.

They all have the same circumstances (four additional people, small amounts of food and water, a suitcase full of size 12 clothing, etc.)  The only thing that's different is where they are.  It's fun to see how they work together!


They're very quick to tell me that they're going to cook some of the food they have with them.  When I ask how they're going to do that, they always respond, "Oh.  Well, we'll start a fire."  And of course, I'm always curious about how they're going to do that since they haven't mentioned matches, kindling, or firewood.  And they don't have matches.  Hmmmm.....

"Well, we'll rub two sticks together!"  Really?  "Can you show me how?"  They're usually shocked and a little excited when I tell them that I have sticks, and to go ahead and try.  "Right here in the classroom?"  "Uh-huh."

Oh, do they want to be the first kid to make a fire in the room!  (Now, lest you think me crazy, in three or four years of doing this, the most I've ever seen is a warm stick.  We're not talking hot.  Just warm.)  Here they are, trying.

Then, one boy decided that you needed to rub a stick against a rock.  So he tried that.  Still no success.  By now other kids wanted to try.   After two days of working on posters and trying to build a fire, they realized how challenging it is!  Which is a great segue into the first excerpt we read in our anthology, the part of Hatchet where Brian is trying to start a fire.

This picture is a little blurry because he was rubbing the stick so rapidly.

In the writing workshop part of my class, earlier this week I asked my students to write down something from the book they were reading independently.  Then I asked them to circle the nouns and underline the verbs.  Oh. My. Word. They struggled mightily!  I was pretty freaked out that day, wondering how I was going to fit in basic grammar along with everything else we have to do.  These are sixth graders.  They should know this stuff.

But later in the week, after this group poster creating session, I asked them to write about a time when they had felt courageous.  And boy oh boy, they may not know their nouns from their verbs, but they do write well.  It was really sweet to read their stories, and I breathed a little more easily.

Outside of school, last weekend, my husband and I drove down to Delaware to kayak in a state park we'd heard about.  It has cypress trees (you southern people are very familiar with them, but those of us northerners don't usually see them) in the middle of the pond.  It was so cool - one minute you were out in the sunshine and the next, you were kayaking through a grove of trees so thick it felt like you were walking in the forest.  How cool is that?
And then we tried to take a picture of ourselves.  In separate kayaks.With a camera. We were laughing so hard we almost capsized!  But we finally got one!

Here's to fun times that feed your soul in the great outdoors!

And finally, a special shout-out to Erin at I'm Lovin' Lit who's come up with YET ANOTHER amazing interactive notebook product - this one for writing.  Way to go, girl!  Now, pick me to win a free copy :)

Here's hoping you have a great weekend, and another good week at school!