Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'm Thankful For...

One of my favorite blogs, What the Teacher Wants, is hosting a linky party about being thankful. What a great of course I had to join in!

1. What are you thankful for in your classroom?

My students. I have a great group this year. Not only are they brilliant thinkers (could I be partial?), but they are the sweetest group of kids I have ever had the pleasure of teaching. I am already dreading the last day of school...that's a first!

2. What person are you most thankful for?

My husband. It takes a special kind of man to understand and be supportive of how much time I devote to my career. Between late my nights at work, spending weekends grading when I'd rather be out gallivanting around, or just "talking shop" with him, my husband is there for me 110%.

3. What 3 blogs are you most thankful for?

This is a tough one. I visit so many so often!
  • I have gotten tons of ideas from Classroom Freebies. There is an abundance of idea for every grade, every subject, every season on this site! I visit it daily...even more frequently on some occasions.

    Classroom freebies

    • Great book reviews from my friends at A Year of Reading. This blog has inspired many book purchases in my classroom, as well as a very VERY lengthy wishlist. I also follow the writers on Twitter and have enjoyed the Professioanl Development I have gleaned from their wise words.

    • Great classroom tips and lessons from Clutter-Free Classroom, one of which I even blogged about last month. It's a great site to help you stay organized, as well as find ideas for teaching the intermediate grades.

    Clutter-Free Classroom

    I am so thankful for so many others though, I wish I could go on forever! (Check out "Blogs I ♥" on the right for more!)

    4. What guilty pleasure are you most thankful for?

    Once Upon a Time! This show is letting my relive my childhood obsession with Snow White and all of her princess friends in my adult life. If you haven't tuned in yet, you must!

    5. What are you most thankful for?
    I am most thankful for where I am right now in my life. I am healthy, and happy, and I feel like I am doing everything I was meant to do. I am thankful for having job security in an unsure economy. I am thankful for a roof over my head and food in the refrigerator. I am thankful for a loving family, good friends, and a professional support group beyond the walls of my classroom. I am thankful for my followers who give me support, guidance, and ideas! Life is good!

    Please share what you are thankful for by posting a comment below, or joining the party!

    Fall Linky Party!

    Thanksgiving time always makes me realize that fall is almost over and winter is on its way (brrr!). I decided it would be fun to share activities and ideas that you have found this fall, so that we could save them for next year.
    Here are 5 of my favorites:

    1. I think these Pilgrim Hat Treats would be so fun to do with the kids the day before Thanksgiving break!

    2. I had a lot of fun doing this Haunted House Ad activity with my kids. I got the idea from the Clutter-Free Classroom blog. My students loved it!

    3. This hand and foot print turkey is something I have done with my students in the past. I like having them create their turkeys and then write what they are thankful for on the "feathers." You can tailor it to any grade level, which is always a plus!

    4. Next year, I plan on reading Balloons Over Broadway with my class. It's a great nonfiction book about the Macy's Parade.

    5. I really enjoyed this Turkey Trotten reader's theater with my students last year and plan on doing it again next week. We talked about vocabulary (lot of W.O.W. words in this "loquacious"), it helps build fluency, and it was fun to perform in front of the class. I had another group work on The Meal Must Go On. For both skits, we used Promethean Board Flipcharts that I created as backgrounds.

    I hope you enjoy these links and try some with your students, too! Please join in so we can all benefit from one another's great finds!

    In order to join this linky party, follow these steps:

    1. Write a post on your blog about 5 activities that you found or used in your classroom this fall.

    2. Add the linky party button below to your post.

    3. Click the "Add your link" button at the bottom of this post to enter information about your blog entry so others can check it out!


    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Reading is WRAD!

    Photo of Milford Sound in New Zealand!

    Recently, LitWorld invited me to participate in World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) by being a WRADvocate. WRAD will take place on March 7, 2012. The goal of WRAD is to spread the word about the joys and benefits of reading aloud to children.

    I have LOTS of ideas for making WRAD successful in my classroom and my school. I am going to start by passing along the information to my administration. One idea I have is to ask one of our administrators to read a favorite picture book to the whole school via our televised announcements. I picture all of the students on the carpet in front of the whiteboard, listening to her read.

    Another idea is to invite parents and family members in to share favorite picture books or a chapter from a favorite novel. I've even thought about having the intermediate students take some time to read aloud to a student in a primary grade that day. The possibilities are endless!

    Please join me in celebrating WRAD by setting aside some time to read aloud to your students. Spread the word: WRAD is coming!

    What are some ideas you have for celebrating WRAD?

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Chance to Win Free Books!

    Chronicle Books is having its Second Annual Haul-idays of course I am entering. This will be my first time, though. I heard about this contest from my friends over at Teach Mentor Texts, so I had to join in. 

    Here's how it works:

    If I am chosen, then I get to donate $500 worth of books to any charity of my choosing. I was asked to participate in World Read Aloud Day in March, sponsored by LitWorld. LitWorld promotes literacy worldwide, which is a huge undertaking that could certainly benefit from some extra books! So, that's who will get my books! 

    Here is the list of books I plan on donating (which could also be yours if I win!) :

    If YOU wold like to win the $500 haul of books, become a follower and leave a comment below telling me about what you would use your books for. If I win, I will choose one of you to win these books, too! It's that simple! Good luck!

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Read Aloud Reflection

    I have to write a quick post about what happened today during our read aloud time. This is the first time I have done a read aloud with a class (I know, I know...what's wrong with me?!?!?)

    I hate to admit it, but it was very wrong of me not to delve into the word of read alouds sooner. After only 3 days, I am wondering what I was so afraid of. I can already see the benefits of spending this time with my students has. It's great!

    Today was a real eye-opening experience. We just started reading The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. I had read this book over the summer and immediately upon finishing it decided I needed to share it with my kids. I knew right then it would have to be my first read aloud. I just wish I hadn't waited until the second quarter of the school year to get started!

    In order for you to get the real effect of today's event, I need to explain what has been going on in our classroom for the past few days.

    To launch the read aloud, I spent some time discussing the time period in which this book is set. It takes place during the Vietnam war (1967 to be exact), a time when many Americans were at odds. Not only we Americans at odds with each other over the war, but we also were struggling to accept Vietnamese refugees as well. I wanted my kids to understand this. Thankfully, our class carpet is a map of the world so I could "hop around the world" as I explained the events leading up to the war. Once I felt they understood how the war began and how America got involved, we dove into how people felt at the time. It was great! They had such good thinking that I was blown away. 

    In this story, the main character is Holling Hoodhood (my kids love his name because it's weird). He is in 7th grade at Camillo Junior High. He has just started the year and discovered on the very first day that his teach, Mrs. Baker, "hates his guts." This probably stems from the fact the Holling is Presbyterian and does not attend  Catechism or Hebrew school on Wednesday afternoons like the rest of his classmates. So, on Wednesdays, it is just Mrs. Backer and him. 

    As a result of her apparent frustration over the matter (at least, this is what Holling thinks), Mrs. Baker give Holling a ridiculously difficult sentence to diagram. Much more difficult than one she gave to his peers: "I read a book." Holling's sentence reads: "For it so falls out, that what we have we prize not to the worth whiles we enjoy it; but being lacked and lost, why, then we rack the value, then we find the virtue that possession would not show us while it was ours." My kids' jaws dropped when we got to this, they really didn't get it. So we talked about it, picked it apart, and came to paraphrase it as "You don't know what you've got until it's gone." But this wasn't the magic moment, oh no, there was more.

    A few more pages in we discovered that Mrs. Baker's husband was going to be deployed to Vietnam shortly, as the principal announced it over the P.A. system. In the story, Mrs. Baker doesn't show any emotion as this announcement is being made to the entire school. Suddenly, one of my kids' hands shot in the air. He was squirming around so much to get me to notice him, I thought he would pop! When I finally called on him ( a little exasperated because I was mid-sentence) he came out with this:

    "Mrs. P.! I get it! I know why she gave Holling that crazy sentence! She was trying to express how she feels about her husband leaving, but since she's a teacher she can't get all emotional, so she put it in words. Maybe she thinks Holling will understand."

    "Or maybe it's the author's way of telling us something really bad is going to happen to him," chimed in another.

    Then my jaw dropped. Those ideas had never occurred to me, and this was my second read-through. 


    What awe-inspiring moments have your read alouds brought about? What are some of your favorite books to share with your students through read alouds? Please comment below!

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    CRs Got You Down?

    I have got a solution for you! While I was grading the latest county mandated test (bleh!), I noticed that my darlings were really struggling with their constructed responses (CRs). Although they have been doing them since 3rd grade, I usually find that 5th graders need a few reminders when completing CRs in the beginning of the school year. However, my reminders did not seem to do the trick this time. You know, the usual "Don't forget to support your thinking with details from the text!" or "Make sure you connect your own thinking to your answer!"

    In an effort to help them improve their writing, I stumbled up this site. There are lots of resources for guiding your students through the tedious process of completing CRs. I really liked the revision tools that were tied into the 6+1 writing traits (2 birds, one stone!).

    Although I shudder at the idea of giving students a formula, I do believe they need some guidelines to help scaffold them until they are more successful. I will not present these as "rules" for wtiting CRs, but rather suggestions for helping them improve. Hopefully, this and our "Shoot for Three" incentive will get their pencils moving and the wheels turning!

    Do you have any lessons or tricks you use to help your students experience more success with CRs? Please share by commenting below!