Wednesday, July 23, 2014

6th Grade Teachers it's Finally Here! ELA Common Core Vocab. set and a giveaway!!

Sixth grade teachers I want to be you right now!! This new ELA Common Core Academic Vocabulary Word Wall set is so stinkin' cute! I just love how it turned out and it's going to look amazing on your bulletin board!! I'm so over the moon about it that I'm going to have a little giveaway. Enter below for the chance to win your very own set!!  Giveaway ends Friday 7-25-14 at midnight.

Displaying academic vocabulary in the classroom is extremely important! Research shows that students need exposure to new vocabulary words multiple times before they reach mastery. This word wall set is perfect for enforcing academic vocabulary and will give your students year-long test prep of those tricky words they need to rock your state test!

(Polka Dot, Black & White, Rainbow and Zebra sets coming soon)  Also, don't forget to check out the matching Math and Critical Verbs of the Common Core word wall sets!!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks all for sharing in my excitement! I know some of you are gearing up for back to school already. We still have 5 more weeks of summer in Michigan! Well if you call 71 degrees summer? But hey, I'll take it. I'm loving every minute!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Two for Tuesday - 50% off my two most wish listed products!

I'm linking up with the Teaching Tribune this morning for "2 For Tuesday."  Who can pass up a 50% off sale?!?  I can't wait to see what other products get linked up today so I can do a little half off shopping myself.

The first product I'm linking up is my MOST wish-listed item.  It's PERFECT for back to school season because these exit slips focus on Launching your Reading Workshop.

Today only, this product is a mere $1.75!!!

Here's a blog post I wrote on how we use exit slips to ensure accountability and purpose during Reading Workshop.

You know those readers who hide in the corner or under their desks, stare blankly at pages and pretty much do nothing during independent reading time because they don't have a purpose for reading and/or they're not being held accountable for proving that they actually read anything?  I've got em' in my classroom and I always stress every year about how to get them to really read vs. fake read.

First and foremost, I try my hardest to spread my love for reading to each and every one of those students.  I aspire to make reading enjoyable and show them the journeys they can travel through books. I pray that independent reading time becomes their favorite time of the day, but that alone doesn't always work.  They are still unfocused during reading time and I don't really know if they are reading each day unless I confer with them.  Unfortunately, I can't reach all of them every day.

So this year, I'm using Reading Exit Slips to quickly gather data each day on who is really reading, who is fake reading and who can apply the strategies I taught during the mini-lesson.  The exit slips are giving those distracted readers a purpose for reading that they can refer back to when they lose track of their thoughts.  Also, knowing that they need to respond to the prompt after independent reading time, and share their response with a partner, is keeping them accountable for actually reading and not just turning pages.

How am I using the exit slips?

First, I put the exit slip up on the SMARTboard with the document camera and use it as our "I can" learning target to keep us focused during the mini-lesson.  I explain the prompt and model it with our classroom read aloud.  I give the students time to respond to the prompt orally based on the classroom read aloud.  Then I hand out a prompt to each student. They head back to their seat, use a glue stick to glue it onto the top of the next blank page in their reader's notebook, and their job is to think about the prompt while they read independently from their just right choice books.  Many of them respond to the prompt while they're reading.  When the timer goes off I do give students a few minutes to finish and reread their responses. Then they meet with their reading partner and share their answers to the prompt.  Every few days I collect reader's notebooks and read though the responses for a grade and/or to inform my instruction/intervention needs.  I also read through the responses as I'm walking around conferring.  The responses are a great way to start each reading conference so you can check to see if the student is applying the taught skill.

The second item that I'm marking 50% off, today only, is one of my BEST sellers!!  An AWESOME deal at only $1.50.  That's cheaper than a Starbucks coffee!!

Here's a blog post that details how we tackle close reading in room 206!

First, we have a weekly subscription to a current events news magazine like Time for Kids or Scholastic News. If you don’t have access to either of these publications, with upper elementary students you can use your local newspaper. There are also many free websites that offer informational articles like Kelly Gallagher’s free article of the week site. 

Teachers should set aside at least one day a week to read current articles and opinion pieces, especially in English, social studies, and science.
(Focus - Schmoker, 2011)

After I determine the article from the magazine that we are going to read closely and debate that week, we start with vocabulary. We take 10-15 minutes to talk about 2-3 academic vocabulary words. The students talk in groups to determine a description of the word and a picture to represent the word.  We discuss the different examples and then the students complete this vocabulary sheet from my Close Reading resource. 

Before we read I have the students announce their initial opinion on the issue. For example last week we read an article about dodgeball so we took opinions on whether or not dodgeball should be banned in schools. I send the yesses to one side of the classroom, the nos to the other and the maybes in the middle.  We talk about why we have these opinions and I record their ideas on a chart. 

Next, we discuss our purpose for reading in our Close Reading packet (which usually has to do with their opinion on the article - example purpose: To find facts that explain why schools should or should not ban dodgeball). Then we read the article together closely - highlighting the facts and taking notes as we read.  After we read, I have the students cite in their close reading packet two facts from the article that support their opinion. They share these facts with a partner and we take a second poll on our opinions. It's interesting to see who has changed sides at this point based on the facts.  This is also when we hold our debate to try and sway our maybes to choose a side.

Lastly, students write an opinion piece to persuade their readers to take their side on the issue. They follow the rubric in their close reading packet when formulating their opinion piece.

And that's it!  It's fun seeing how serious they take opinion writing when they have a purposeful audience to address, a controversial issue to debate and strong facts to support their opinion.  We wrote to the gym teacher last week about whether or not dodgeball should be banned. In the past, we've written to our principal, cafeteria workers, custodians, politicians, bus drivers, parents, celebrities.....

Happy shopping!!! Check out all of the other great "2 For Tuesday" deals at the Teaching Tribune's weekly link-up.  I'll be checking back in all day to read about the new deals and steals.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

40 Book Challenge FREEBIES and more

Teaching blogs share freebies all the time and at Teaching Blog Addict, we give you the place to find them all in one spot! Be sure to come back each week to see what's new! Find free downloads and teacher resources for kindergarten, first grade ,second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade and sixth grade.

As you all know, this past year Donalyn Miller (author of The Book Whisperer) inspired me to incorporate a 40 Book Challenge into my reader's workshop.  We started the challenge on the first day of school and we talked about it every day.  I kept track of the books I read on our classroom door. And my readers kept track of the books they completed in their Data Tracking Reading Workshop binders and on our 40 Book Challenge Bulletin Board.

How cool was my door?? I loved seeing the books I read increase throughout the year, and I loved talking about those book with my own readers and even passing readers who noticed a cover while in the hallway. I hated having to take it down at the end of the year, but I also can't wait to start again this year.  P.S. I've started my 40 Book Challenge already for this upcoming year so I can keep up with my readers.  :)  I'll post a few covers on the first day of school to kick off our 2014-2015 40 Book Challenge!

If you'd like to make a similar display on your door or a classroom bulletin board, click HERE for an editable FREE 40 Book Challenge poster of your own.

While I kept track of my 40 Book Challenge progress on our classroom door, I mentioned earlier that my readers kept track of the books they read in their reading binders.  I created these record keeping pages for my students to log their progress.  And because I'm so excited for YOU to incorporate a 40 Book Challenge into your classroom, I'm giving away these record keeping sheets for FREE! Click HERE for the FREE 40 Book Challenge record keeping pages.  I pulled these pages out of my Data Tracking Reading Workshop Organizer Binder which is full of EVERYTHING you need to keep your reading workshop running smoothly and organized.

The record keeping sheets helped my students stay on track with their 40 Book Challenge progress, but I needed more.  About half way through the year I decided that I wanted a quicker way to monitor each student's finished books. The only time I was hearing and seeing their progress was during status of the class updates, strategy groups and conferring.  I wanted a way to SEE their progress at a glance.  So I created this 40 Book Challenge Bulletin Board Set.

This set helped my readers to show off how many books they had read, along with me, and I could quickly see the progress of each student. We also kept a total running record of our books read and had a little friendly competition with some neighboring 5th grade classrooms.  Gotta love a good competition!

Similar to many of you,  I do not have a lot of wall space available in my classroom, so I created a large and small set of 40 Book Challenge letters.  I also created individual book squares students can fill out and post as they finish books, and 5 book recording book marks that students fill out and post as they complete 5 books (to save space).  I used the smaller set of heading letters and the 5 book tracking rectangles here!

I just recently updated my 40 Book Challenge Bulletin Board set so that the bookmark tracking rectangles are now numbered - books 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, etc. for easier record keeping.  If you've already purchased the set make sure you re-download the updated version.

I would love to hear about how you are incorporating Donalyn Miller's 40 Book Challenge into your classroom!  Comments, questions, tips and advice are always appreciated!!

Happy Reading!!!  I'm off to get back to my summer reading so I can stay on top of this year's 40 Book Challenge. I'm reading Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage.  It's the sequel to Three Times Lucky. I may like part two better than part one. :) Who doesn't love a good ghost story!  Enjoy!

I'm linking up with the fabulous Deanna Jump for Book Talk Tuesday.  Head on over to read about all the different recommended reads.  You can add them to your 40 Book Challenge!

Everyone is a genius!! - Incorporating genius hour in the classroom

Every student is a genius and should have the opportunity to share what they know with others!  What better way to do this than to allow students time in the week to explore their passions and share them with classmates.  

When I first heard of genius hour I thought, "Oh how I wish I could incorporate that into my classroom, but I just don't have enough time to get to everything I already 'have' to do, how can I add something new?  But then I thought - I could start small, just an hour a week.  I can manage that, for the sake of choice and autonomy and passion and self-motivation and enjoyment and collaboration and..........  the benefits are endless.

Genius Hour History

I attended #nErDcampmi 2014 this past week.  If you are not a follower of the Nerdy Book Club Blog or #colbysharp and #donalynbooks on Twitter, best free PD any reading teacher can ever hope for!!
At #nErDcampmi, I went to a session on genius hour (because I'm always interested in educational movements that provide choice and autonomy for learners) and I found out that one major force behind the beginnings of genius hour is Google.  Google decided that to improve employee productivity and advance the company, they would encourage their employees to spend 20% of the week working on choice projects to explore their passions.  "Allowing employees to work on what interests them increases productivity," (see any classroom connections here???). What came out of this 20% time? Only 50% of Google's products that are on the market today!  Can you imagine the possibilities in your classroom?  Are you inspired yet to give it a try?

What is Genius Hour?  

Picture one hour a week in your classroom, all year long, where everyone is learning about what interests them.  Learners are researching, discussing, reading, collaborating, creating, writing, and so on.  There's time built in for generating ideas, investigation, sharing and learning.  Learners are applying their Common Core skills as they are truly meant to be developed and used.  Students have control over their decisions and needs and are motivated to share what they've learned with an audience beyond their teacher - classmates and outside peers through blogs, Skype, etc.


Here's some #nErDcampmi quotes for you if you're still in the 'thinking about it' stage......

"Genius Hour builds expertise with authentically reading, writing and presenting expository text."

"Genius Hour helps build lifelong learners."

"This type of inquiry learning should be happening all the time."

"The beauty of what a kid can do, if you give them an inch."

"Kids have the view that school isn't authentic, they have to do things that aren't real to life. Genius Hour lets them think about real life stuff."

Genius Hour Resources

If you're starting to consider the possibilities of including time for Genius Hour in your classroom, here are some of the resources I gathered from #nErDcampmi, as well as what I've been collecting on my own.  I hope you'll find it useful if you decide to give time to Genius Hour for your learners.

We all know that some kids struggle with finding a topic they are passionate about. The first question I asked myself is what about those kids who lack motivation, will they just sit around and do nothing during genius hour?  Cause trouble, sleep, fake it???  The optimist side of me is thinking that maybe this will be the case for a few kiddos at the beginning.  However, implemented and modeled with passion and rigor by me, will soon spark some interest for those kids who despise school and being forced to learn about and do things they aren't interested in.

Here are some resources I plan to use to help my learners gather ideas:  

Kid President Videos (If you haven't heard of him yet, you have to watch a video - you won't be disappointed)

Caine's arcade Videos (how a 9 year old boy created a cardboard arcade during summer vacation)

Have your learners take an online career interest survey to discover their passions.

Share your interests, passions and ideas! Be a learner yourself to model the expectations. Share that failure is okay and expected at times.

Check out my Genius Hour Pinterest board which contains some amazing record keeping opportunities, videos and more!

Twitter links to teachers who are already giving learners time to explore their passions - @thenerdyteacher @paulsolarz @auntierez @kingandkids @angelamaiers @joykirr  

Hashtags to follow that are overflowing with information about genius hour -  #geniuscon #geniushour #choose2matter

Here's a livebinder created by Joy Kirr that is invaluable!  OMG is all I can say!  Everything you will ever need all in one organized place!

Implement a Wonder Wall where your learners can post questions and ideas to spark interest

Genius Hour Expectations

What are my expectations for Genius Hour this year?  Great question, I'm not exactly sure since I will be learning right along with my kiddos. Here is what I'm thinking though.  I'd love some advice from all of you on expectations I could add to the list!

1. You MAY NOT do something that is easily googled, you can't just research and do a "report."
2. You MAY research a topic and use a specific structure to present the information to your classmates.
3. You MUST plan your time for each day and record what you learn each day.
4. You MUST ask lots of questions - it's how researchers and investigators learn.
5.  Expect to fail a few time before you find the perfect project for you.  It happens to all of us!
6.  Help others and find peers with similar interests to collaborate with.
7.  You MUST share what you've learned with your peers or an outside audience (blog, Skype, etc.) at least once a marking period.

Are you inspired yet?  My goals for this first year are to:

  1. Devote one hour a week to genius hour.  
  2. To make this time sacred and consistent.  
  3. To document our journey as much as possible.
  4. To Skype about our learning with at least one other class.

So what are your thoughts?  If you haven't incorporated Genius Hour into your week before, are you considering it now?  What are your questions?  If you already give your learners time for inquiry learning, what are your tips and advice?  I can't wait to hear from you.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Business cards for #TpTVegas14

I'm also linking up my business card designs for Tried it Tuesday with the fabulous Fourth Grade Flipper.

I agree with Flipper that PowerPoint is the go to software for creating your business cards, and vista print is awesome for printing.  I found a promotion code TV500 that will reduce your printing charges to $9.99 for 500 cards if you use vista print.  However, be prepared to still pay shipping!

I posted pics on Instagram immediately when they came in the mail.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my cards but I was so excited when they came yesterday. Shipping took less than one week so you still have time to order. They make me feel like a real business owner.  I'm planning to take some to the Teachers Pay Teachers conference in Vegas #TpTVegas14 and I guess I'll just watch to see what everyone else is doing with theirs.   LOL

Whether I use them all or not, I only paid a total of around $20 so you can't beat that for a tax deductible purchase.

Can't wait to read everyone else's Tried it Tuesday posts!!  I love having time to be creative in the summer!!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Data Tracking Workshop Binders for Reading, Writing and Math!

I am so in love with summer right now.  We are spending a much needed, relaxing weekend up north and to be honest yesterday was the first time I've shut down my teacher brain this summer.  But since a teacher's work is never done, and we woke up to a rainy morning here in Northern Michigan, I'm taking some time (just a few minutes, I promise) to start thinking about setting up my data tracking workshop binders for next year.

Last summer, I created my ideal reading, writing and math workshop data tracking binders and for the first time I felt organized and did a better job at conferring and meeting with strategy groups with fidelity.  I base much of that success on my binders.

This year, I'm planning to make a few small updates to make these binders even better so today I'm making a list of those tweaks and I can't wait to get started.

If you're interested in learning more about these amazing binders, here's a bit of my post from last summer.  I'm also planning to take pics of my binders from this year and post those later this week so stay tuned.

Post from 8/3/13 -

I've BUNDLED together my conferring binders and I'm beyond excited to use them in my classroom this year.

I've used conferring binders for several years, but they've always been a mish-mash compilation of ideas from all of the conferring gurus.  My favorites are Patrick AllenThe Two Sisters of course, and Jennifer and Gravity (introduced to me last year by our literacy coach).

I've scoured the appendices, copied pages, resized, reworked, but nothing ever seemed to be "exactly" what I needed and wanted.  And nothing ever talks about how we should confer during Math Workshop.  So in my desperation (since conferring with my readers, writers, and mathematicians with fidelity is a goal for this upcoming school year) I decided to create my own ideal conferring binders.

My ideal conferring binder looks a little like this:  
  • Cute cover pages and dividers to help keep me organized
  • Monthly calendars so I can schedule ALL my strategy groups and daily conferences (isn't it funny how if it's not on the schedule, it somehow seems not to happen - please tell me I'm not the only one!)
  • Pages to take notes and set goals during strategy group meetings
  • Pages to keep track of daily conferring notes and whom I've conferred with, when
  • Places to track the books students have read, pieces they've written and math centers they've completed
  • Status of the class checklists
  • Sheets to place the labels I take notes on during conferring
  • Sheets to record data on strategy groups, individual conferences, intervention groups and assessments.  (Nothing drives me crazier than not being able to find that 'one piece' of data on a student during an IEP or child study meeting).  Now it will all be in place.  
  • Plus lots and lots more
  • And BONUS, I also had to create a section for students to use to keep themselves organized during reading, writing and math workshops.  Now they will have a place to record all of their notes, goals, strategies, requirements and track their assessment data as well.  
Whew!  Each binder is 50 pages of organized bliss and did I mention that I'm REALLY looking forward to using them this year!

Here's a sneak peek at what I've put together so far:


Binder above is from Vera Bradley. And look at these cute duo tang folders I found at Walmart.  They may not be sturdy enough to hold all of the pages in one, but I might divide them into sections.  What are your suggestions?  I'm still on the hunt for black/white polka dot or chevron or similar pattern binders. No luck yet.

I promised only a few minutes, so I'm headed back into summer mode now.....   I hope you are all enjoying a peaceful, relaxing Sunday morning as well!!  Cheers to summer!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

ELA Vocabulary Overload........

Just a quick post to let you all know why I've neglected this little blog for the past few weeks. First, end of the school year craziness - self explanatory.  Second, ELA Vocabulary Overload. 

Let me explain.  I've officially been on summer break for one week - and believe me I have enjoyed the: sleeping in, extra gym time, breakfasts on the deck, actually having time to turn on the TV (I watched Rachel Ray and The View for the first time since last summer), playing with my kids, watching movies with the hubs - I could go on and on. But, what I've spent most of my first week off doing is creating grade level ELA Common Core Vocabulary Word Wall Sets.  I admit, I now have every academic vocabulary word found in the ELA Common Core Standards, grades 3 through 6, memorized.  I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.  It won't exactly make for exciting dinner conversation this summer......  LOL

But anyway, throughout the year I had so many requests to separate my ELA Common Core Vocabulary Word Wall BUNDLES into specific grade level sets. So, I'm happy to finally check item number one off my summer to do list.  And, the vocabulary overload is worth it because I'm super excited to show you a quick preview of what I've been working on.......da da da dum..........




Aren't these sneak peeks absolutely adorable? I'm in love with the backgrounds and clip art.  Truly talented people on TPT, I tell ya!

I've broken the sets down into a 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade and 6th grade product. I'm also offering each Common Core ELA Vocabulary Word Wall set in five themes - 

  • animal print (you know this one's my fav)
  • black & white (easy on the color printer ink)
  • polka dots
  • rainbow colors
  • chevron
I love each and every set and can't wait to see what they look like hanging in classrooms. If you purchase a set in the future, send me pics so I can show them off on the blog!!!!!

Now you know, that's where I've been -  up to my eyes in ELA Common Core vocabulary, and loving every minute of it.  If you're interested in checking out what I have posted to TPT so far click HERE.

I hope you are enjoying summer break as much as I am, and I'm sure you're staying just as busy.  We all know #teachersworkinsummer - most of the time :).

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