Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holiday Card Exchange!

Have you ever done a holiday card exchange with your class? This is my first year doing it, and it's actually really exciting. We joined a group through a teacher who runs the exchange every year. She put us into groups of 30 and sent out the class names and addresses.
Two weeks ago we put 29 holiday cards in the mail.
This week... we began receiving our cards! Here is a picture:
I wanted to think of some activities to do with my class now that we have the cards. Friday is our last day of school before our break, so I have a few open blocks of  time.
My first idea was to do some map skills and have them mark the places the cards came from on a state map. This would help them begin to learn the locations of our 50 states since this is part of our social studies curriculum coming up. I also thought about doing some map scale activities. I coiuld pick out a few of the cities and we can figure out how far each card traveled. We can also see which  traveled the furthest and which traveled the shortest distance. They can also compare and contrast the distances and do some problem solving. 

I'd love to hear other ideas if anyone has ever done extension activities with a project like this! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Poetry Practice with Casey

Oh, hey there! Yep, I'm still here. Yep, I still have a blog. Nope, I didn't forget about it.
Life got a little crazy at the start of this school year....and to be honest, I didn't put blogging at the top of my life. But, now I need to get back at it. So ... here is what we're working on in 4th grade:


In looking at the CCSS, students have to do a lot more with poetry than just read it. Students need to understand poetry vocabulary, compare poetry to prose summaries, as well as visual representations. In looking at the suggested mentor texts for the CCSS, one of the suggestions was to read Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer. Here is a look at some of the things I'll be doing with the text:

Is this something you could do with your fourth or fifth graders? If so, click here for a copy of the activities.
As you can see, the first thing I'll be doing with my students is identifying key poetic elements in the text. We will especially focus on the imagery and tone of the piece, helping students to understand that these elements can happen in poetry just as in other literary texts.

Next we will be comparing the poetic version with the prose summary. I'm not sure my students even know what it means to read a prose summary, so that should be an interesting mini-lesson. Once we read and discuss both, we'll compare and contrast them in an open-ended response. I'll be using my compare/contrast words worksheet to help my students remember what words compare and what words are used to contrast. Click here to download it free from TpT.

Another thing I'm excited to do with this text is compare the poem to a visual presentation of the text. I think my students will really enjoy watching the cartoon version, especially since keeping their attention through the next week and a half could be tricky. I searched and found a Disney version on You Tube. Here is the link.

Check back later this week (or maybe weekend) for more about teaching figurative language (and ugh ... interpreting figurative language) to your students ...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It was an organizing files kind of day ... PLUS some new freebies!!

Ever have one of those? Feels kinda great and quite a bit tedious at the same time. I spend the day organizing the files on my computer. Much like the physical areas of my life, I start out being completely organized with the best of intentions, and end up with everything a bit messy. I don't mean to get lazy and lose diligence, but it inevitably happens. So, 4 hours later, all of my files are color-coded, organized, and back where they belong. The best part is, I won't have to search as hard for things I am looking for, which can be a really big time saver.
While I was doing that, I found a few files that I never uploaded to my blog. So, I also spent some time today added two more pages to my blog and uploaded some free resources. I have more to add, but I thought I got a good start.
Check out the new pages and see what I've added. Maybe you'll find something you can use in your classroom.

On another note, this week will be back-to-school for our students. Tomorrow is my last inservice day, then Tuesday it all begins again.

So, does your school do inservice to start the school year? What do you do/learn?
We did:
1. One day on balanced literacy, specifically focusing on effective strategies for guided reading
2. One day on math, specifically focusing on the new technology component of the CCSS Everyday Math
3. Tomorrow's crazy day: Curriculum updates, school improvement plans, and a smattering of other updates.

And so, my friends. I leave you with this lovely eCard I saw on facebook, which will be quite fitting for my year:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Back to School for Me ... and a FREEBIE for you :)

Tomorrow is back to school. You know what that means? Meetings ... meetings ... and more meetings. It's ok though, I love getting to see coworkers who've been MIA for the summer. So, I was working in my classroom today, trying to get everything in place and make everything look pretty.
I love blogging with my kids, so I made some posters to put up in my room using our poster printer.
Click the images below to get your own copy!

The graphics are by the lovely Nikki @
The fonts are by Darcy Baldwin  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

TpT's Back to School Sale!

So, maybe like me you have the back-to-school blues....

But, cheer up! TpT is having a back to school sale :)

Yep! You know what that means? It's stock-up time. So, go fill your cart with goodies to make the start of a new year a little brighter and a whole lot easier.

What type of products do you look for on TpT? What will you buy?

I just uploaded two new products today (in time for the sale of course!):

Click on the pictures to see them in my store. And get shopping already!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Who's Ready for a New Year?!?

Ok, maybe I'm not quite ready. I mean, who doesn't love summer? Though, getting ready for a new school year can be quite fun. I love setting up my classroom and making everything look new and fun for a brand new school year.

What do you do to get ready? I'm planning on starting investing time in my classroom on Monday, getting it ready for 23-25 fresh new faces. Plus, I have $100 bucks to spend at Lakeshore and can't wait to pick out some new goodies. It's so hard to decide what to buy though! 
 Set of 3D Shapes?
 Magnetic Base Ten Blocks?
 Tub of Fraction Circles?
 Text Set for Teaching Math Standards?
Nonfiction Text Activities?
 How Did You Solve It?
CCSS 4th Grade Math Center Worksheets?

These are tough life decisions ... What did you buy for your classroom this year? What would you buy if you were me?

And speaking of getting ready for a new year, Fun in First Grade is having an awesome Back-to-School giveaway. You can win one of seven prizes PLUS an item of choice from her TpT store. Just another reason to love the beginning of the year. AND, if you like Duck Dynasty, she has the cutest freebie featuring a quote from Phil and using Melonheadz Illustrations!  :)

Oh, AND as if it couldn't get better ... Melonheadz is having a sale in all of her stores until the 12th, so get to shopping. I think saying I'm obsessed with her graphics is an understatement :) Happy shopping friends!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Staples... I will get around your ridiculous limits!

I know I'm not the only one who goes into Staples and then immediately feels frustrated when the sign says "limit 2" per customer.

So, I want more than just two glues Staples. I have 25 students in my class! Also, ten folders and 4 pencil boxes just won't cover it. Now, I get it. If they sold that quantity at that price to us all, they would make no money. They are a business after all. 
However, I wasn't just going to give up. So, I may have gone to Staples 5 separate times last week to get more than their "limit". You do have to spend at least $5 in the transaction to get the penny deal, but there were quite a few other things I wanted to buy for my classroom anyhow. After the 5th trip, though, I began to feel a little nuts. 

Does anyone else do this? Or, if you don't stalk Staples to get their insane cent deals, what do you do to try and stretch your money, but still get things your students will need for the upcoming school year? Does your school provide a lot of the things you need? Do you ask the students to bring items in? Or, do you buy mostly everything with your own budget?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Glogster I Love You ... and a SUPER SUMMER GIVEAWAY! :)

Do you use Glogster? Guess what, if you don't, you should! It's free for educators, and it's pretty much amazing. While working on some curriculum this summer, I really wanted to create some resources for my students to practice interacting with text digitally. With the new CCSS, some of the states are moving to digitally testing students. This means that our kids will have to read and annotate a text using the computer. They will they compose their responses and answer any questions in an online format. I don't know about your school, but mine just isn't ready for that. Our students do everything with paper and pencil with the exception of a few multiple choice tests.

So, I got to experimenting. I found some great resources released by Smarter Balanced and used them as a springboard from which to pick passages and question prompts. Here is what I've put together so far:

The last one isn't quite finished yet. I'm hoping to have one for each unit I'll be teaching this year, which is 7. The awesome thing about the glog is that the students can click on the pictures or links and download a video, document, or other resource. There are so many uses and practice options for having glog as a tool in the classroom. 

I'd love to hear if other people use Glogster, and how it helps in your classroom. What do you use it for? If you don't use it, do you think it would be something that would be a valuable tool for teaching? 

 OH AND I DIDN'T FORGET ABOUT THE GIVEAWAY! Farley from Oh' Boy 4th Grade is giving away a $100 gift card to School Outfitters! Yep, 100 big ones. Click on the link to enter for your chance :) There are probably a million things I could spend that money on ... oh the possibilities. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sweet Summer Time

Summer is in full swing, but I don't quite feel relaxed yet. Since school's been out I've actually been working on rewriting our 4th grade reading curriculum. Does your school pay teachers to do this as well?
We are basically starting from the bottom up, changing everything as we go. The CCSS is quite specific about the expectations for our students, and in order to prepare them we have to raise the bar. So, a coworker and I spent the last few weeks breaking apart the standards, prioritizing them into units, and finding challenging texts to use as exemplars. When we started I thought it was going to be much easier than it actually turned out to be. However, we are almost  finished and I am completely ready to start my summer.
While it's been a lot of work. Every unit now has:
Suggested Text and Other Resources
I can statements for the students to track their learning 
 Suggested mini-lessons broken down by targeted standards
 Sample lesson plans and thinking stems
 Graphic organizers
Exit slips
 Formative assessment options

7 units later and my brain is a little fried! One of my goals this summer was to work on things for my TpT store, but after this, all I want to do is lay on the beach and read a book!

What things do you work on for your classroom over the summer if anything? Do you take a break and turn off your teacher brain for the summer, or spend hours like me revamping and rethinking lessons?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Feelin' Fishy

So, have any of you ever had a class pet? I've done fish in the past, but that is about as far as I will go with animals in the classroom. However, my students had other ideas about a month ago. Two of my students decided they wanted a class pet. It all started with our research of Peregrine Falcons. Their first idea was to incubate and hatch out own eggs (and what do you do with baby chicks once they've hatched?). THEN, they moved up to bigger (or smaller) and brighter things ... a parakeet. They spent hours and hours researching, writing proposals, and laying the groundwork. That is, until my principal said, "no". They were heartbroken.

...Which brings me to fish. I felt so bad for them! They worked so hard, and pretty much got shot down. I wanted to channel their creative energy into SOMETHING positive. So, now we have guppies. I thought, perhaps, they would be happy just staring at the fish. NOPE! They are researching, learning, and sharing all this new knowledge with eachother.


Um, yes.

First, one of my students brought in a heater, water filter, and WATER TESTING SUPPLIES. Yes, water testing supplies. He tests the water every morning to make sure it is healthy for the fish. Now, my students are researching what chlorine and other chemicals can do to our healthy tank.

Then, they had a class vote to name all 5 fish and two snails. Why do they always come up with the strangest names?

Unfortunately, both snails died in the first day (what did I do wrong?) The funniest things about it was that two of the girls in the class wrote Eulogies. (Creative writing anyone).

This week we lost our first fish. Today, three students joined efforts to create a power point presentation eulogy.

And the learning STILL has not stopped. Now, they realized that all three female fish are pregnant. The students have researched how guppies have live birth, and are EXTREMELY concerned because the mother fish WILL eat their babies. So, what does that mean? Nursery tank of couse!

The plastic container in the bottom is where the female fish will be put when she is ready to have the babies. The babies will swim through the small grate and out of her reach.

And I thought I was just buying a few guppies! I suppose this just goes to show that learning can come in some pretty amazing forms!

15 more school days for me ... but whose counting?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I'm So Excited!!

TpT is have a SALE!!! Don't you love when people appreciate us (even if it's other teachers)? Well I do!
Have you filled your carts yet? The sale starts tonight at midnight ... so it's so close.  You have two days to shop, so get to it :)

I'm also so excited because I am FINALLY finished my Tall Tales set. I really wanted to align it to CCSS, so it just took me FOREVER, which is only a slight exaggeration. I just uploaded it to TpT in time for the big sale. Yay!

I'm going to do some shopping today as well. I have had my eye on some great Melonheadz graphics for some time now. I'm an addict! ...I just can't help myself... I mean, look how cute my tall tales set is with her adorable graphics:

I can't wait to start this unit with my class in a few weeks. What a great way to end the year! 

Happy shopping my friends :)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Oh hey! I have a blog!

Ok, so I didn't completely forget I have a blog, but sometimes life makes it hard to keep up. Between getting a new job this year, and some very difficult life changes, my blog has definitely taken a back seat. Then, I saw my blog on someone's blog real, and it said last post: 2 months ago... 2 MONTHS! Has it really been that long?

So what's going on in my classroom? A ton of learning!

The past few weeks my students have been buzzing about the falcon next in Harrisburg. Thanks to Emily Kissner over at In My Classroom: The Forest and the Trees, they got some inspiration to learn. She has an amazing set available at TpT to help students learn Text Structure. In the set, there are articles about the Peregrine Falcon and Chinstrap Penguins. Well, they just can't stop talking about falcons! We've been watching the live feed from a ledge on the Rachel Carson building in Harrisburg. Click here to see the feed. I can't wait until tomorrow morning, because what they've been waiting for has finally happened! On Saturday morning the mama falcon hatched her first egg. From the looks of it now, there are two baby chicks hatched. Tomorrow my classroom with be all a twitter!

The coolest thing that happened in my classroom the past two weeks was a result of all this new excitement. We had our state testing the past two weeks (ugh!) and I wanted to plan something fun and low key (but still focused on learning) to do during the testing days. So, I had my students create a magazine all about falcons. First, we looked through magazines from our classroom and created a list of things that magazines have that make them different than books or other print material we read. I compiled the list and made a print out for them. See below (click if you would like a copy):
They each spend over a week compiling information, creating layouts, and coming up with creative pages to add to their magazine. It was awesome to see their creative energy at work, and to see them so exciting and lively after sitting and taking a not so fun test. 
I think the hardest part of the whole process was teaching them to use Power Point. I cannot stand Word. It is the most annoying template when you are trying to create anything that involves more than just text. So, I taught them the art of using Power Point for more than just making a slideshow. They didn't believe me at first, but they came around to my way of thinking. I can't wait until they are all finished. I'll be sure to share some of their amazing work! 

We also spent some time before state testing to work on some CCSS review. One of the units I was most excited to teach was a unit based around Cinderella. I created some materials to help my students compare and contrast Cinderella stories for different cultures. It's available on my TpT site now! Click the picture to go directly to my page.

So, what do you do to prepare for high stakes testing? We are finished math and reading, but have two more days of science ... hooray?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Indentifying and Interpreting Figurative Language - CCSS is killing me! ha

Ok, not seriously killing me ... but it's making me stress just a little more.
I am used to having my kids identify and write their own figurative language. Now, however, the CCSS says they also have to interpret figurative language - YIKES!
At first I thought, "So, what?" Um, here's what -- it's hard! So, I've been working the past week on helping my students first figure out what figurative language is, and then explain what it means (and I have to admit, I actually revisited this post to remember all that I did. I lost some of my lesson plans in my move ... so glad for my "blog archives").

Here is my original post for figurative language. It basically outlines how I taught figurative language last year. But, this year I had to vamp up my lessons. I started with the basics, but added some new rigor (isn't that the new buzz word).

Here is a document that we are using in my classroom to organize our thoughts (the fonts are Darcy Baldwin Click on it to download the PDF:

I looked through some poem books I had and found a few that had good examples of figurative language. There are a ton online as well! But, I also wanted them to find figurative language in narrative text. I chose the book Snow Day Dance by Will Hubbell.
I created another chart for this book. Click the picture below to download it (again the fonts are by Darcy Baldwin There are so many examples of figurative language in the book, but I focused on similes and personification for my lesson. 

Even with all of the activities we are doing, my students still struggle. Some figurative language is just plain confusing! Especially when it is in a poem! We are going to keep plugging away. I found two poems this weekend that are very difficult.They are both about trains, and both have figurative language. I am going to model with them how figure out poetry that seems really tricky. We are also going to compare and contrast the poems as they have very different moods and messages (Wish me luck!) 

On a totally separate note, I love when TpT has a sale!!!  I completely forgot, however, and only put my items on sale at 2 today .. woops! Because of that everything in my store will be on sale until tomorrow night before I go to bed :) 
I just added two new things to my store: 
1. An affixes set to help students learn and understand CCSS eligible 4th grade affixes
2. Deport Dull Words - a set to help you show your students how to use synonyms to make their writing better.

Check them out while they're on sale! I have some shopping of my own to do now :) 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

All About Inferring

Why is making inferences so hard?! We've been working on this skill, and my kiddos still struggle. So, I searched and searched for some engaging activities that would get their inferential wheels turning.

1. Inferring with picture books:

I love to to use the book Tuesday by David Wiesner.
This is an awesome book with VERY few words. The pictures are simply amazing, and they really made my kids think. As we "read" the book, I modeled my thinking on the first couple pages. I really emphasized how to think deeper about the pictures. There is a lot of detail that the reader can really focus on. After I modeled, I let the kids help me infer what what was happening next. They were glued to the pages, each one leaned as far forward as their bodies could go. I would have been really cool if I had more copies so they could have each had a book in their own hands. The best part of the lesson was the giggles each time I turned the page. This book is definitely not one who will disappoint. 

Another great book for inferring with books without words is Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day.

2. Inferring with book that have VERY few words.

I love the book Yo! Yes? by David Raschka

Yo! and Yes? are basically the only words in the book, but it's great for inferring feelings. I like to use a talking/thinking bubbles worksheet like the one below for the students to infer what the characters are really saying with their words.
The students write the actual words from the book in the left speech bubble. Then, on the right they write what they think the character actually means. It's great for getting them to be creative and think "out of the box". 

3. Visualizing what you infer

It's great to pick a book where students can make inferences even if you don't show them the pictures. Two great books for this are Little Green by Keith Baker and Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg. These are great books to have kids infer what is happening as you read (without showing them ANY pictures). 
With Little Green, I had my students fold a white piece of computer paper into 3s. I first read them the title and had them draw a picture about Little Green. Underneath this picture they had to write a sentence about who they think Little Green is. I then began reading the story, and stopped twice more for them to again draw a picture of little green with a sentence. 
A similar activity works with Two Bad Ants. This activity works better when you have the students fold the paper into 8 sections. As you read, the students can draw what they visualize the ants doing by inferring what the text is saying. Their pictures will be very funny, and VERY different than the actual story. If you want them to be closer in their drawings to the actual story, before reading remind them that these are ants in the story, not people. Remind them that ants see the word differently than we do. 

4. Inferring with comics

While perusing the web, I found a link to this great for an inferring powerpoint using comics. 
You have to scroll down almost all the way to the bottom as the site has tons of powerpoints. But the great part is that it is completely editable... And the stars are Garfield and Calvin and Hobbs. Comics area great way to teach the art of inference since many times you have to infer a lot to get the giggle. Comics make jokes without telling us the whole story. Sometimes kids are inferring and they don't even know it! 

5. Inferring - then writing about it.

My new favorite book for making inferences is The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. If you've never read it, Chris Van Allsburg has put together a book of mystery, that started with a mystery itself. A man name Harris Burdick dropped story ideas off one day with a publisher, and was never heard form again. All that remains of these stories is a title, sentence, and a picture. We read the "story" together, talking about each picture - thinking about what the rest of the mystery might have been. Below are some examples from the book: 

My students are now working on creating their own stories with these pictures and captions as their inspiration. I hung posters of the pages in the room, and they are now writing machines. They started by brainstorming the setting, characters, and plot, as well as where in the story their picture belongs. I'm really excited to read their final products! 

How do you help you students make inferences? What is your favorite book to use? I'm always looking to find more books and activities to strengthen by students' skills!

On a completely different note, I finally finished my Division Dash Pack! It includes division posters, division flash cards, division "I have, who has", AND division dominoes. Plenty of activities to get your class engaged in dividing!

Here's a sneak peak: 

Check it on on my TpT site. Or, if you're the first person to respond to this post with you favorite book to use for inferring (and your email address), I'll send you a copy for FREE ;)