Friday, October 2, 2015

Five for Friday books and photos

It was a busy week in room 206 and I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching to share it with you!

We started the week with a new desk arrangement!  I'm not usually a fan of rows, but we're going to try it out and see how it goes.  I get bored easily and like to switch things up pretty often.  What's your favorite seating arrangement?  I'd love some new ideas for next month!

We also received our September book order this week.  My students couldn't wait for the coveted book box to arrive and when it finally did we made a big production of passing out new books and book talking all the new freebies we got for our classroom library!!!  Check out these amazing titles! I'm glad I snapped this picture when I did, because I haven't seen them since. New books don't stay in the bins for very long in our classroom!

I was most excited about the brand new released baby-sitters club graphic novel that came in the mail from Amazon this week - Mary Anne Saves the Day: Full-Color Edition (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix #3): Full Color Edition

It was a pre-order and I was beyond happy when it finally arrived.  This series was my absolute favorite as a kid and I love sharing it with my 5th grade readers!


My students were most excited about the Notebook of Doom books - The Notebook of Doom #1: Rise of the Balloon Goons (A Branches Book)  I started a few of my reluctant readers on this series a week ago, and they haven't put them down since.  They are cruising through them this week and I couldn't be happier.  These books are perfect for level 30-34 readers, or disengaged readers.  You've got to try them out.  I personally recommend any title from the Branches library for struggling readers!

In writing, we immersed ourselves in personal narratives this week to prepare for writing our own narratives next week. We read many amazing stories and came up with a great list of things authors do when writing fiction.  I'll share that soon once it's complete.  But for now, here was our favorite mentor text of the week - Thank You, Mr. Falker


Lastly, even big kids love to GoNoodle!   We enjoy taking a few minutes each day during our snack break to refocus and reenergize and prepare for the rest of the day!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

5 ways to enhance your academic vocabulary instruction - #2 WRITE the Words

I'm back with installment two of my series "5 methods to ENHANCE vocabulary instruction."  A few weeks ago we talked about method number 1 - students need to SEE new vocabulary words (click HERE to view this post). This week it's all about the importance of WRITING new vocabulary words.

And I don't mean writing them 5x each, or finding the definition in the dictionary, I mean WRITING them in a meaningful way that will help students to connect and remember the new words in the future. 

In our classroom, after I show students a new vocabulary word with method #1 (for example "articulate" -  I brought in the manual that came with my iPhone 6 and we looked at the directions for how to use Siri. We discussed how the authors had to clearly describe (articulate) the steps so new users would understand) the next day, we practice method #2.

Once students have had an initial visual representation of the new word, we WRITE about it in our vocabulary folders. 

First, students work together in pairs to orally determine a meaningful description of the word. We WRITE several description examples on the board and we pick and choose to create a description we can all agree upon.

Second, students WRITE the description on a graphic organizer (see photo above) and then work in pairs to come up with synonyms and antonyms, a complete sentence that shows understanding of the word and contains at least 7 words and lastly a picture that shows what the word means. 

(Here's a great game from The Brown Bag Teacher called Vocabulary 7-Up that's fun for practicing WRITING new words in sentences.)

Lastly, once students have finished WRITING about the new word, they meet up with a new partner to compare and WRITE more if necessary.  All in all, step #2 usually takes about 30 minutes.
See photo below......

Stay tuned for post #3 all about how we KEEP new academic vocabulary words in our classroom - to reference all year long!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Back to School Freebie Frenzy

The first week of school is in the books! I'm utterly exhausted and so looking forward to a relaxing weekend.  But I couldn't resist linking up with my Fifth Grade Freebies friends for a BACK TO SCHOOL FREEBIE FRENZY BLOG HOP and GIVEAWAY.  I'm never too tired for FREE stuff - just sayin'.  :)

All of us over at Fifth Grade Freebies want to celebrate back to school season with a few freebies for everyone and a $50 prize giveaway!!!!  So, since it's fall and I'm already craving pumpkin pie, I'm giving away my  "Thankful for Clues" Inference Pack for FREE - starting now - yes, right now - through Monday night. So snag it quickly!!!

I created this inference pack to help my students practice quoting details and examples to support their inferences.  We had so much fun using it last fall that I can't wait to bring it out again this year.

We've already begun to discuss inferring during Reading Workshop in room 206 and my new readers are able to dig deep and verbalize their inferences (thank you 4th grade teachers - you are amazing!!!).  However, my kiddos are struggling with supporting those inferences with evidence from the text.  And we all know that Common Core Reading Literature Standard 1 in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades states that students must accurately quote details and examples from the text when drawing inferences.  So, practice makes perfect, right????

Last year, we spent weeks practicing citing the clues that led to our inferences - with our just right reading books - and it really paid off.  We practiced with clues that show character traits, setting clues, clues to: character motivation, conflict, resolution, theme, and character change.  We also practiced using all of our inferences, and the evidence we cited from the text, to summarize the text.

I'm hoping that this "Thankful for Clues" Inference Pack will help your students explicitly practice citing evidence from the text and improve your reader's weekly responses and metacognitive skills.

Enjoy!!  Don't forget to also enter our GIVEAWAY below to win a $50 gift card to TPT!!  Woo hoo! You only have until Monday night to enter so don't delay.

And, hop on to grab some additional FREEBIES from the rest of the Fifth Grade Freebies crew!!

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Monday, September 7, 2015

It's a LaborLESS blog hop - Work Smart!

Hello everyone!

Main Graphic Laborless

It is Finally here!

Today I am linking with Laura from Where the Magic Happens, Krista from Teaching Momster, and Lisa from PAWsitively Teaching! I have joined forces once again with my bloggy friends to bring you the best, most amazing giveaway on this Labor Day weekend!
All of us have been thinking about good ways in which to treat our readers and followers.   We thought hard, and I mean it! Really, really hard… and decided that  we can treat you to our best ideas to work smarter rather than harder… at school and home!

I know what it takes to be a great teacher, the stress, the time, the energy… I could go on and on! I also know that we crave time to ourselves and our families.

So here I go!


How do I work smarter, not harder?  I have my students self-assess their practice work instead of me! I teach two sections of math and my students do a lot of practice.  In the past, I collected all that practice work, lugged it home, sometimes checked it - sometimes threw it away when I got so far behind (shhh, don't tell), wrote feedback, passed it back to my students days (or weeks) later and most shoved it in their desk without hardly a glance at all MY hard work!  Frustrating and time consuming to say the least.  And my students weren't getting timely feeback about their abilities, or internalizing their strengths and weaknesses.

So I solved this problem by having my students self-assess their practice work - immediately after practicing!  I make sure that I always have an answer key ready to go and I use it a few different ways.

Sometimes, I post the answer key somewhere in the room so students can go up and check their work as soon as they finish.  They circle the ones they missed and they go back and try to fix those until they are correct.  They get IMMEDIATE feedback on how they are doing with the particular skill and they get a chance to analyze their mistakes and make corrections.

Othertimes, I post the answer key electronically with my document camera and have my students check their own work.  Again, I have them circle the ones they missed and then I'll give them a few minutes to make corrections by finding someone who got that one correct and can help them to fix their mistakes.

Lastly,  I pass out an EXIT SLIP which I always have ready to go after each new concept.  The exit slip only takes a few minutes.  Students complete the exit slip - hopefully with more confidence after checking and correcting mistakes in their practice work.  I post the answers to the exit slip when the time is up, students circle any that are incorrect and write a 1 (I don't understand), 2 (I'm starting to understand but need help), 3 (I understand) or 4 (I've got this and can help others), on the top of their paper.  I collect the exit slips - breeze through them quickly forming piles of students who have it and students who don't.  I make notes in my plan book about what I may need to reteach or reinforce the next day and with who, and I'M DONE.  Nothing goes home with me (for real!!!!) and my students leave math that day knowing if they mastered the concept or if they need more practice.


If you've followed my blog for awhile, you know how much I LOVE to read.  I always have, always will!!!  It's what I do to unwind and forget about the stress of life.  Nothing is better than escaping to a far away place or time period and living in someone else's shoes for a short while.

Most of the time, the books I choose to read are young adult books. This way I can do what I LOVE, and keep up on what my students are reading at the same time.  Win, Win!  Here's a list of my favorite fifth grade read alouds.  Hopefully you'll find a few that you can use to escape when life gets really stressful this school year!


Not only do I use exit slips in math to make my life SO MUCH EASIER, but I also use them to bring closure during reading and writing workshops. All of these exit slip sets make my assessment process quicker and easier!!  If you'd like to check them out, click below!!


Now that you've read about how I work smarter and not harder, top all these great tips and ideas with these top-notch prizes!

A $100 gift card to Amazon

A $50 gift card to TpT


2 $25 gift cards to TpT

1 $10 gift card to TpT

Enter the giveaway in the rafflecopter below!!  Have a great school year and remember to work smarter, not harder!!!

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

5 ways to enhance your academic vocabulary instruction - #1 See the Words

Are you overwhelmed by teaching students to master academic vocabulary? I've narrowed down the thousands of strategies and methods to my favorite five and I'm going to share them with you over the next few weeks!

Today I'm starting with the most important method - students need to SEE the words they are learning.

When introducing a new vocabulary word like 'articulate, or dividend, or expository,' it's extremely helpful for students to SEE what this word looks like so they can make a visual connection in their brain.  Here's how I help my students SEE new academic vocabulary words.

*  If it's a verb, students need to SEE it in action - if the word is 'articulate' I model for my students how to 'articulate' my thinking, I show them on the board by writing out a clearly articulated answer to a story problem or on an anchor chart.  Then I have students practice 'articulating' their thoughts to a partner.

* Students love to SEE each other doing silly things so I have student volunteers ACT OUT 'articulating' the answer to a problem.  Play vocabulary charades!

* If it's a noun or other part of speech - I DRAW lots of pictures of what the term looks like or does. I will also have the students draw their own representations and share them.

* If the word is 'dividend or expository, I will show what the word is by writing out a division problem and circling the 'dividend' so the students can SEE it. I draw lots of arrows pointing to the dividend to help them remember.  If the word is something I can display, like real 'expository' texts from my classroom library, I will pass them around for students to SEE and touch.

* Most importantly, I keep all of these visual representations available for students to SEE for a LONG time.  Students need MULTIPLE exposures to a new vocabulary word before they reach mastery.

* I keep my visual representations posted all year long on our classroom word walls.  Every time we learn a new word I take out the word wall card, show it off, pass it around, discuss it, have students use it to make their own flash card, and then I make a BIG DEAL out of adding it to our word wall.  I also point it out on the word wall EVERY TIME we use, discuss, or see that word happening in the classroom!  Here's a few shots of word walls I've had over the past few years. Click on the photo if you're interested in viewing the word wall set on TPT.

After I've introduced new words to my students and given them lots of visual representations, I move on to the next method which is WRITE about the words.

Stay tuned for how we WRITE about new academic vocabulary words in our classroom.

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