Sunday, February 7, 2016

Favorite Digital Tools in the classroom

A few weeks ago a coworker and I compiled a presentation of our favorite digital tools to use in the classroom. I'd love to share this presentation with you HERE.

These digital tools are best used in upper elementary and middle school classrooms.  Each page of the presentation gives the name of the digital tool, the link and a short list about why we love it so much.
I'd love to hear your favorite digital tools so we can add  more to the presentation.

Leave them in the comments below!!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

This week in 5th Grade.......dojo, phones, baseball and more

How was your week?  We had a crazy week of assessments in Room 206 - being the end of the marking period and all!  But we made it!  I managed to throw a little fun in somehow. Here's a sneak peek - 

#growthmindset is a hot topic in the education world currently and Class Dojo has jumped on board by creating cute, engaging videos that tell kids "the brain is a muscle that needs to be worked out."

If you haven't shown these videos yet - put them in your plans for next week!!  They've released two videos so far (just a couple minutes long for each) and they have three more planned!

We typically do a gonoodle brain break each day before writing time, but we substituted with the videos twice this week instead!  Just go to your class dojo page and click on the 'big ideas' tab.  The videos will pop right up.

Since it's the end of the 2nd marking period for us this week - new semester means new partners!  If you use partners in your classroom a lot (two heads are better than one) than you need to download these phone partner templates from Young Teacher Love.   For years, I used a strategy similar to this one but with clocks - when I saw Kristine's phone templates a few years ago I HAD to replace our clocks with her phones - I mean it's the 21st century, right? Better get with the times!  

The concept is easy - each student gets a phone template and walks around the classroom searching for ten partners.  I laminate the phones when they're completed and we tape them to our desks. Whenever the students need to check over their work with a partner, discuss ideas or work together, etc., I spin a spinner and they find that number partner quickly.  Takes all of about 10 seconds to determine partners this way.  And we use partners several times daily so this is a HUGE timesaver in room 206!

End of the marking period also means LOTS of assessing!  To review for our math summative assessment this week we played one of my favorite review games - Math Baseball.  This idea was passed on to me from a former collegue and it's never gotten old!

Here's a quick run-down of how to play - separate the class into two teams.  Number each student 1-15 in team one, and 1-15 in team two. (numbes will vary depending on your number of students)   Draw two baseball diamonds on the board - or create reusable posters like I have.  Bring batter number ones up to the board, all of the remaining students are outfielders.  Give the students a review question to solve. The batters solve it on the board but keep their work covered up. The outfielders solve it at their desks.  Call a random outfielder number, check each outfielder's work.  If correct, the team moves a base.  Check the batter's work.  If correct, the team moves a base.  Play until all review questions are complete.  The team with the most runs is the winner!!  What I love most about this game is that ALL students are engaged the entire game!

We took a BIG writing test this week too over opinion essays.  What I've noticed over the past few years of teaching opinion writing is that my students are good at forming an opinion and good at backing it up with evidence and good with arguing their point (what kid isn't???), but they struggle with putting all that great thinking into the correct opinion essay structure.  So we created this anchor chart to help with remembering the format for an opinion essay!   I think it really helped!

Lastly, while we tested our little behinds off this week, we also celebrated the end of the marking period with a PBiS school wide movie.  Our gym was transformed into the Falcon Cinema for a showing of the movie 'Inside Out.'  The kids brought in blankets and pillows and we served cookies and hot chocolate.  A good time was had by all.  Our PBiS team rocks!!!!

Happy weekend teacher friends!  I'm off to grade all of those assessments we took this weekend!  Yikes!!!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Show and Tell Tuesday - Library Labels and More

My coworker Stephanie from Forever in Fifth Grade is hosting a linky party and I am so honored to be a part of the very first Show and Tell Tuesday!
I'm linking up to show you my classroom library.  I meant to show it off in September but you know, life happened and 28 new fifth graders showed up in my classroom and I got a little busy.

Things have slowed down just a tiny bit now (not really) so better late then never, right?

Even though I teach math, writing and reading - secretly, reading is my most favorite time of the day! Reading is my passion.  I've been a reader my whole life.  I have memories of weekly library trips with my mom (where I was limited to 7 books a week - for real!), to proudly carrying Stephen King's 'The Stand' around on top of all my textbooks in high school, (The Stand is like the thickest book ever published - I'm convinced),  to many, many late nights reading just one more page under the covers in my college dorm room.

Reading is what I turn to whenever I have the gift of extra time.  And I love sharing my passion for reading with my fifth graders.  Creating an amazing classroom library to me is how some people feel about traveling to Disney World!

To give you an idea of how long it takes to set up my classroom library each year, (because we have to box up every single thing for summer) here are a few before pics.

Unpacking that mess was a very LONG day! Who am I kidding, it took at least 3 days to organize all those books!  I swear, I don't have a book buying problem. That's what I tell my husband at least. ;)

A few days later and the library looked more like this............

I'm a big fan of displaying books on the tops of shelves.  I do a daily book recommendation and students also love to recommend books in our classroom.  Those are the books that get displayed (for a very short time as they're usually snatched up immediately) on the book easels.

Here's a link to some reasonably priced book easels on Amazon if you're interested!

Organizing the books in our classroom library is one of my favorite parts each year.  I love using book baskets so students can grab a basket of books by a certain author, or genre or theme or topic and browse through it quickly.

Labeling the baskets is a piece of cake now that I've created these labels.  I just print, laminate, cut, punch and hang them on each basket.

With the books organized into baskets and the labels finished, a place to hang our anchor charts, some lighting and fun seating options, our library was complete.  Here it is!! 

Thanks for listening to my first ever Show and Tell Tuesday!  Listen to more show and tells from my other amazing teacher bloggy friends by heading over to Stephanie's blog. Click the logo below. Enjoy!!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Five for Friday - book recommendations and blogs!

It was a busy first week back from break in room 206 but we I survived!

I read so many good books over break and I couldn't wait to recommend them to my readers this week.  One of the best gifts over Christmas break is the extra reading time.  I miss reading so much when life gets busy!

On Monday, the book I recommended was one I read over the summer but hadn't had a chance to discuss with my students yet.  The book is titled Circus Mirandusand your fantasy readers won't be able to put it down. It's magical and heart warming and so, so sweet!

And when I came across this AWESOME youtube channel (Whoa! I wanna read dat!) I just HAD to show it off to my readers.  These book trailers are silly, engaging and way better than listening to me read the back of the book!  Check them out if you have time!

On Wednesday, I recommended The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate to my readers who love historical fiction and animal stories.  Callie and her brother have such a tender heart towards animals and I can't wait until my youngest animal loving daughter is able to read this story about strength and overcoming stereotypes.

It was so cute when we visited the school library later that day. Several of my girls found the first Calpurnia Tate story and begged me to check it out and read it next.  So of course I did!  I have some weekend homework to do now friends!

On Friday, I recommended Fuzzy Mudby one of my all-time favorite authors Louis Sachar. Holesand its sequel Small Steps and There's A Boy in the Girls' Bathroomare legends in our classroom.

This book is perfect for readers who love suspense, crime and a bad kid turns good (typical Sachar) storyline!   My boys grabbed it before I even shelved it in our library.

With all this reading going on in Room 206 we had to take some time to update our blogs!

We are focusing on identifying the type of conflict in our fiction books as well as the turning point where the conflict is faced/realized and the character is changed.  We just had to blog about all of our deep thinking.  My students L.O.V.E writing about their reading on social media (well social to room 206 classmates only) and commenting on each others posts.  The reading journal has evolved folks!

Well I better get started on my homework (Calpurnia Tate #1).  Happy Sunday to all my teacher friends and I hope week two is less tiring than week one. Please say I'm not the only teacher who is utterly exhausted by the end of the first week back from a break?!?

I'm linking up our week full of reading with Doodle Bugs Five for Friday.  Click on the link to check out more of my teacher friend's fabulous weeks!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Best Graphic Novels in the Upper Elementary Classroom

Do you have reluctant readers in your classroom?  You know, those kiddos who pretend/fake read but never really finish a book.  When I call off our 'status of the class' check in - these kids always list off a different book. (For more about keeping track of your readers with 'status of the class' check out this blog post HERE.)

You know who they are.  They're in every classroom and by 5th grade they've gotten really good at NOT reading.  These kids become my ultimate challenge every year.  And I LOVE a good competition.  Reading is such a passion of mine and I just HAVE to spread that joy to my students. But finding each reluctant reader's 'perfect' book is definitely tough.  In the past, it would take me months and months and hundreds of books to get every reader in my class hooked.

Then the graphic novel made its debut.........

Last year I slowly began purchasing (through Scholastic and Amazon) a few graphic novels for our classroom library.  I noticed right away books like Smile and Sisters and El Deafo were 'hot commodities' and even my reluctant readers were picking them up - without my help!!!  Ding, ding ding!!!!! Can you feel my excitement?!?  So of course I had to purchase a few more, and a few more, until ALL of my reluctant readers were reading and reading and reading.  Goal accomplished!


What is it that makes the graphic novel so appealing to reluctant readers?  After reading several myself my predictions are: the ability to rely heavily on picture cues, less text per page, quicker reads, thickness (all reluctant readers want to read the thickest books right?!?), and great, relevant story lines!

It took me almost two years to build up our graphic novel collection and I want to share our favorite titles with you so you won't have to agonize over book orders and book stores like I did.  Who am I kidding? - book orders and book stores are two of my most favorite things in the world :)

Here are room 206's recommendations for the best graphic novels of 2015!


(Be careful with Drama - some mature content involved - better for middle school audiences and above.)




(We recommend ALL of the Nathan Hale Hazardous Tales graphic novel series.)

Enjoy!!  And I hope your reluctant readers fall in love with reading graphic novels as much as mine have!

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