Monday, March 23, 2015

Using Classroom Displays

I'll be the first to admit that I am guilty of putting too much on my classroom walls. However, I don't have windows ... so we need SOMETHING to look at! If there is one thing I cannot stand, it's bland, boring, white walls. I want my students to feel like they are walking into a place that is welcoming, not dread being stuck with me in a box for 6 hours a day. 

I try to use the wall space for colorful, but useful materials.

Use #1 - Math Vocabulary
I created Word Wall cards for each of our math units. We use EDM, so there are quite a few vocab words. Here is my wall for Unit 8:
I actually ended up liking the vocab cards so much, I decided to put them together in a set for TpT. I thought maybe other teachers could use them too! Find that here.
This is probably one of the most used boards in my room. The kids especially use it during partner work when they can't remember the different between different terms. This way, they aren't constantly asking me for help.

Use #2 -Reading Language Board
I also started to have a little fun creating posters for our language lessons. I made an antonym ant and a synonym cinnamon bun. There is also a magnifying glass for context clues and M&Ms for multiple meaning words. We are lucky enough to have a poster maker, so I can make these posters in power point and print them MUCH bigger. I've made quite a few others for other language standards. I've acutally considered making it a product for TpT, but wasn't sure if this is something others would use. Do you have a poster printer in your school?

Use #3 - Reading Comprehension Board
I also turn many of our class anchor charts into posters. That way I can print them and hang them and they look pretty. Also, I can reuse them year after year because I tend to create the same charts each year with my kiddos (with slight differences).  This is also a place they can reference during guided reading since it is right behind my table. I have a Power Point Presentation right now with almost 30 anchor charts typed up ... all pretty of course! I also thought about making these into editable documents for TpT so others could save time and use the templates I've already created.

Thoughts on anchor charts/room displays? I would love to hear your ideas, too!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Greek Mythology - Part 2 TEACHING RL 4.4

I don't know about your class, but my students LOVE Greek Mythology. Thanks goodness, because teaching words and phrases derived from these stories is part of the CCSS for 4th grade.
I made a set with stories and activities last year to help teach my unit. You can find it in my TpT shop by clicking on the image below.
Mythology Mega Pack
 This set includes 10 myths for the following gods/godesses and heros, etc: Zeus, Icarus, Athena, Hercules, King Midas, Medusa,Odysseus, Orpheus, Pandora, Achilles 

I also love to do center activities during reading time. Centers are a great way to engage students in meaningful work while still letting them have a little fun. It also helps to give them something engaging to do while I work in guided reading groups. So, I decided to make a center set to go with the Greek Myths.  Find it in my store by clicking the picture.
There set has posters and activities to learn about some popular mythological sayings: Herculean Effort, A Titan, Opening Pandora's Box, Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts, Achilles Heel, The Midas Touch, A Face that Launched a Thousand Ships, Caught Between Scylla & Charybdis, An Odyssey, If Looks Could Kill, A Trojan Horse, Food of the Gods
It also has 3 center activities:
1. Mythological Memory 
2. Mythological Creative Writing
3. Mythological Root Words

My students really enjoyed reading the myths and finding out the meaning behind popular sayings. I'd say it's their favorite unit of the whole year (though Tall Tales come in at a close 2nd!)
We start this unit on Monday after finishing up our traditional literature unit by comparing and contrasting the versions of Cinderella we've read. The kids are excited! But, I decided there were other myths I'd really like them to read. So, I got back to work and spent (way to many) hours creating a part 2 to my Mythology set. 
Here is the link from my TpT shop if you want to check it out: Greek Mythology Mega Pack Part 2

This set includes the myths of Aphrodite, Arachne, Demeter, Dionysus, Hades, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, Persephone, and Poseidon. 
I'm really excited to roll out these stories this year. I have my bulletin board all ready with my posters and I Can Statements.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thinking Theme

It's about the time of year again where I am really hitting theme hard! We had a mini-lesson today to review what we'd learned previously and add on new thinking.
(As a side note, I usually turn all of my anchor charts into digital copies so I can print them on our poster maker and hang them in the classroom. I can't stand hanging my hand-written posters .... I think they look messy and it drives me nuts!) 

Last week for Read Across America we really sunk our teeth into Dr. Seuss books. As we read, we verbally reviewed theme. The two main books we discussed were Yertle the Turtle and The Sneetches. Today, as we made our chart, we thought about EVIDENCE. Seems like it's the current buzz word in education. Using Dr. Seuss was a great way to use easy books as examples. They really understood the messages without a lot of thought. It was a great way to begin to scaffold their thinking by having them provide specific evidence from the text. 

The main text we've been reading over the last week is the Cinderella Story. So far we've read Cinderella, Yeh Shen, and Cendrillon. We discussed the two main themes from these stories, "always be kind to others" and "good vs. evil". I sent them in pairs to find evidence from the text to illustrate these themes. In this way, I am gradually releasing the responsibility to them, with the end goal being each student doing it independently. 

Need a visual for you class? Click this picture to download.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Math Madness - Revamped

So, as I sit here on our second snow day in a row ... I'm feeling a bit stir crazy.
But, I've been productive. Last year, I created an activity for my students to practice math skills before our state testing began. See my original post here.
This year, the rigor in our testing has changed, and therefor I need to up the rigor of the game questions. So, I've been scouring the internet for released test items. I find it best to use released items instead of creating my own. This way, the students are exposed to the language they will encounter. So, yesterday's snow day was spent creating two rounds of "Math Madness". Here is what it looks like:

Here's how it works:
First, I ask a student to bring in a small basketball net we can use. I prefer the kind with suction cups because its sticks right to our white board (you can also use a trash can). Then, I put my students into teams. I prefer mixed ability teams. Students get a score card for their team. I take all of my question cards and attach them to construction paper and laminate them. Teams come up to the front and choose their cards. As a team, they solve the problem. The most important thing is that EVERY student does the work on their own scratch paper. This way, one student isn't doing all of the work while the other get nothing out of the activity. Once they feel they have successfully solved the problem, they bring it to me to check.
  • If they are correct, I mark the points on their score sheet. Then, each player on their teams gets a change to shoot a basket and earn extra points (one point for each basket made). 
  • If they are wrong, they do not get points or a chance to shoot, BUT they must go back and try the problem again.
At the end the points are tallied and the winning team is announced.  I have not decided on a prize for the winning team yet, and I might let my students vote on a prize. My end goal is I want my students to all be engaged in review. There is nothing more boring that handing them packet after packet. It not only frustrates them, but burns them out before they actually have to sit down for the state testing. I want them to learn, but I also want them to have a little fun. Last year I let them chew gum every time we were reviewing, and that was a motivation in itself!

I'm working on something now to review for reading, but I'm having some trouble brainstorming. Maybe something will come to to me today!

How do you review for your state tests? I'd love to hear other ideas.