Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Summer Reading

I know we're not there yet.  But we're close!  Only six and a half days left; the kids are getting restless and encouraging them to get out their books and read isn't nearly as exciting as it was for most of the year.  And then, along comes Franki Sibberson, in the Choice Literacy newsletter, with a great idea about how she gets kids thinking about what they might want to read over the summer.

I have my students keep a reading log all year long.  They know it has to be in their binder at all times, and that I randomly check it about once a month.  They record the book title, the author, and the genre, and the date when they finished or quit reading the book.  If they finish it they get to rate it and number the book (the first book they finish is #1, etc.)  At the end of the year, we count how many books our entire team has read in each genre and how many total.

Last year, students read 1,531 books with fantasy and realistic fiction being the biggest draws.  The goal this year is to see if we can beat that.  I don't really care whether or not we do, but some kids like the challenge of trying to compete with other kids.  I don't have a picture of the log - I searched everywhere for it, but it's on my computer at school.  So you'll have to imagine them, some pristine, some several pages long, some almost shredded, and some rewritten ("Oh, no!  I lost mine!")

But, what Franki wrote about was how she gets her kids to sit in a circle and share with each other a particular book that grabbed them this year.  Not one of the more popular, well-read books, but one that kids might not know as much about.  And she said her kids sit there writing down the titles of books they might want to try.  So I told my students we'd do the same thing.  They could use their logs or their journals to help them select a book.

I created this sheet to help them.
You can download it for free at either my TpT or TN stores.  I love that my kids will get one last chance to talk about books, and you know how much they listen to each other's recommendations.  Then, when we're finished, we'll count, figure out percentages, and create a 2012-2013 poster worthy of holding up as a challenge to next year's team.  And they each get a list of books that they might want to check out of the public library.

Win-Win!  Thank you, Franki, for a suggestion that I'm eager to try next week!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Thinking about next year....before this year is out

Some of you are already finished with school, but I still have two weeks to go.  This week needs to be pretty structured so that we can finish some of the Reading and Science goals that we still need to get to, and still include Field Day and other fun activities.

Kim, over at Joy in 6th Grade is having her first Linky Party, and she has a great question: what do I want to change about next year?

I give my students time to read their own books here and there in class, but if I want them to become better readers, I need to make sure that time is carved out each day.  That way I know that some of my kiddos who struggle to make time to read at home will have had some reading time at school.  In addition to having them keep journals, I also want to conference with a couple of students each day.

I tend to be a "divebomb into the deep-end of the pool" kind of teacher when it comes to trying new things.  And I learn A LOT from doing it the first time.  One of the things I've learned from my students, and from seeing great products on TpT and TN is how much I need to break down directions into simple, explainable, check-it-off-when-you're-done steps.  That's my goal for next year's big projects.

I just learned that I'll be teaching Reading and Writing next year, instead of Reading and Social Studies/Science (each for half a year).  It makes so much more sense, but I have to think about how to infuse daily writing into my day.  I haven't decided yet if I want students to read every day and then journal (about what they've read?  about another topic?) or if I want to have kids reading three days and week and writing two days?  Still need to think that one through.

I've been running since I was in my early 20's - many, many years ago.  I've never been fast, but I love it.  There's something about getting myself out of bed in the morning and getting out into fresh air that changes the way I look at my day.  I've been tracking my running on, and today I took a look at each month since last summer.  Started off strong, stayed strong through Christmas, started to run less (it's HARD to get out of bed when it's dark out, no matter how much I know it's good for me) and then even less in the springtime.  I think I'm so worn out by the end of the year that it's even harder for me to get out of bed.  I'd like to stay strong through the springtime next year.

So, those are my goals for next year.  What are yours?  Link up and share!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Something so simple

Are you as guilty of this as I am?  I'm told to hand papers out at the end of the day, or I want to remember to tell my students something important.  

And then I forget.  And remember when I walk back to my room after my students have left for the day.  Tell me I'm not the only teacher who does this!  

And then I saw this on a Clutter-free Classroom blogpost from a couple of years ago.  It was about creating a polka-dot themed classroom.  That was cute, but this simple board, just makes complete sense for someone like me.

I tell my students that I'm 174 years old.  A couple of months ago, one of them asked if I had  an "iStone" when I was a kid.  Pretty clever!  I told him that I had the earlier version, the "iRock."  Sometimes they make me laugh!  

They're pretty forgiving when I forget something, and honestly, most of the things I need to hand out or remind them about aren't critical and can wait a day, but I like how this is there for them to check just as they walk out the door.  And since it changes from day to day, it will (hopefully!) keep their attention.

I think I'll make myself one this summer.  Add it to the list of things to do!

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Help students and teachers in Moore, Oklahoma

It's hard to believe that in just a few short months, another school has suffered terrible devastation.  And once again, I find myself thinking, " Why are people so amazed that teachers would cover their students' bodies with their own, or hide with them in a small space?  THAT'S WHAT TEACHERS DO!"

I hope I never have to be in such a scary place.   But I also know that I'm surrounded by teachers - in my school and blog friends - who would do the same thing.  Because that's what teachers do.

Join me and other teachers at Teacher's Notebook by supporting their our effort to get money and supplies to Oklahoma.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Moving and in denial. In de Nile?

I know I need boxes.  I know I need to go into my walk-in closet (which I'm losing in my new room) and throw some things away.  And box up some other stuff.  But I'm too busy, I say.  Too much to do right now!  Like grading those book projects.  And making sure kids are still reading good stuff up until the very last day minute of school.

Can you say denial?  Yeah, that's where I think I am.  I'm not moving far.  Down the hall, down a flight of stairs, and down another hallway.  First floor instead of second.  Bright square new room instead of rectangular older room.  All good stuff, right?  So why am I not doing anything?  I'm not usually an 11th hour person.  But I'm not a first hour person, either.  Put me somewhere in the middle.

I just don't want to panic a couple of weeks from now when I realize that there's WAY, WAY more stuff in my room than I realized.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Keeping them learning even when they think they don't want to

Oh my, oh my.  What is it about post-testing time that is both so wonderful and so challenging?  Some of my students are feeling like they're done with the year, and I am OH SO NOT ready to let go there.  So, like many of you, this is when learning comes with more hands-on options.
Joanne, over at Head over Heels for Teaching talked about letting kids use dry-erase markers on their desks.  What a great idea!  I'm going to have to try that, in a corner of a student desk when no one's around, just to make sure.  But I love it!

Here's what my kids have been working on.  We're reading about Sojourner, the first rover to land on Mars, and after much discussion about space and space travel (and some great videos from the International Space Station!) we were ready to make our own landers.  The students worked in groups of three and had a ton of fun, trying out ideas and testing them, all in preparation for LAUNCH DAY!

I love this one because you can see the girl on the ground wanting to help the lander in it's descent! It was a great way to make them connect to this particular story!

On another completely different note....yeah, I know.  Random thoughts strung together don't always make sense!  

I went with a friend to the Scholastic Warehouse Book Sale, which is always a great way to refresh your library.  My friend picked up this book and said, "This is totally you!"
Oh. My. Word.  This woman is my twin.  Only she provides good reasons for why I do what I do, and sometimes, I just do it because I think it's the right thing to do.  If you think that reading is good practice for becoming smart, read this book.  I guarantee you'll find yourself nodding in agreement all (okay, most) of the way through.

Happy reading!  And happy leading your students into the end of the year!

Monday, May 6, 2013

What's in your cart? Linky

Now that everyone's aware of the GREAT sales going on at TpT and TN, join the linky from Diane at Fifth in the Middle.

What's in my cart?  Oh my! I'm just getting started.

Little Scientists {Creative Clips Digital Clipart}Let's start with Krista Wallden from Creative Clips.  I just love her work and she's so generous with freebies!  These little scientists would go perfectly with what I teach my kiddos.

And what about this set of backgrounds?
Dotty Digital Papers {Creative Clips Digital Clipart}

And then there's Jen Runde. Have you tried her Drama Circles?  My students love them!  I just bought the end-of-the-year set, and then I read on her blog that she's giving it away for free tomorrow!  So I'll just have to use my money for another set.  Maybe this one?Drama Circle - Back To SchoolWhat a fun activity to end the first day of school!
I also want to try some products from the Reading Olympians - they just make so much Greek & Latin Roots-prefix & suffix-Common Core Aligned Vo
sense to me!

There are lots more goodies out there.  The more blogs I follow, the more great ideas I see, the more products I want to buy!

And don't forget (shameless plug) all of my products are on sale for 20% off.  TpT will add 10% if you type in the promotional code TAD13 and TN will also add an additional 10% for a total at each store of 28%.  You can't beat those prices!

Have a great Tuesday!

Teachers, Wonderful Teachers!

Hi everyone,

Thank you Krista Wallden
from Creative Clips!
This week is Teacher Appreciation Week!
I know that before I became a teacher (in mid-life) I NEVER, NEVER realized how challenging, emotionally and physically demanding, enriching, exhausting, and wonderful teaching could be.

My hat is off to all of my teachers, who pushed me to work harder than I thought was possible, and who by example - despite all my comments to the contrary - led me to eventually become a teacher.  Thank you!

In appreciation of all we do, I am throwing a sale at both my TeachersPayTeachers and Teachers Notebook stores.  At TpT, you'll get 20% off.  Get an extra 10% off by using the code TAD13 at checkout.  At Teachers Notebook, you'll also get 20% off, and they'll add an extra 10% off when you checkout.  Click on the links to my stores at right.  Follow me at my stores and you'll learn about new products as I create them!

Whether you buy or not, I hope you have a great week!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Five (or four or three) for Friday or Saturday. Okay, maybe Sunday

What a fun week this has been!  Are you like me and you just feel a huge weight off your shoulders when state testing is over?

We've been creating Mars landers this week, in conjunction with a story we're about to start reading about Sojourner, the first lander on Mars.  I get TOTALLY jazzed up about astronomy, so we spent tons of time looking at video clips of outer space, writing really huge numbers down to get a sense of size, and just talking about how amazing our universe is!

Now their challenge is to create a lander that will reach "Mars" without destroying its payload.  Students practice with a small plastic egg, but the real payload is a raw egg in a baggie.  I have some rules for them to follow regarding the size of their landers, but for the most part, they get to design and create what they think will be most effective.  Look at what they came up with!

We have always run a tutorial period, where we work with students who need remediation or enrichment.  It's also the time when band, chorus, and orchestra meet, so there are some challenges to getting to students when we need to, but for the most part, it works pretty well.  Starting in January, I met with one group of students who needed some reading comprehension review, but in a way that pushed them beyond where they were.  I created the "Country Project" which I wrote about in an earlier post.  We spent a few days looking at Google Earth and maps, and figuring out where countries were.  Then, students picked a country they knew very little about, and for which we had a book in the library (they had close to 150 to choose from.)  Reading those books, the students have been questioning, comparing and contrasting, reading chapters and coming up with main ideas and details, looking at non-fiction text structure, learning phrases in their language, and comparing the weather in their country to the weather at our school.

Sweet potato cakes from Zambia
But the really cool thing is that at the end of the books, they have recipes.  And the students asked if we could have a meal, with everyone contributing food from their country.  What a great idea!  These kids were studying places as unfamiliar as Laos, Madagascar, and Yemen, as well as more familiar places like China, Italy, or Ireland.  So I was thrilled that they wanted to do this.

Last week, we had our meal, and what a treat it was!  Now, I gave my iPad to a student to take some pictures when I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off  helping students warm their meals and set them up, so there weren't as many pictures of the food as I'd hoped for.  And once we sat down - at a huge "family" table - we'd pushed all the tables together so we all sat together - guess who forgot to take a picture?  Yup, that would be me.      

Some of the desserts - yum!
What a blast!  The kids told me this was the best meal they'd ever had, and I was so pleased that some of my self-professed picky eaters tried a lot of foods.  Isn't it wonderful to discover that even though foods look and smell differently than what we're used to, they still taste delicious?!  If I can make the world seem a little friendlier, a little more welcoming, then I feel like I've accomplished something great with them.

Okay.  So that was only two for Sunday.  Instead of five for Friday.  That's all I can muster tonight.

Have a great week!