Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Workshop Wednesday - Historical Fiction

Hello Everyone! Today I am linking up with Ideas by Jivey for her wonderful linky, Workshop Wednesday.


I was super excited when I found out this week's topic is incorporating historical fiction into reading workshop.  I truly enjoy historical fiction, but relatively speaking, it is one area that I feel needs to be "beefed up" in my classroom library.

The book I am going to share today is Uncle Jed's Barbershop.

The book is set in the time of The Great Depression.  It tells about the special relationship between Sarah Jean and her Uncle Jed.  Sarah Jean's uncle had a dream to own a barbershop.  In the beginning, Jed would travel to people's homes to cut hair and save as much as he could.  He was finally getting close to having the money he needed when Sarah Jean became sick.  Of course, Uncle Jed was willing to spend his hard earned money to pay the hospital bill. 

Sarah Jean eventually recovers, and Uncle Jed is able to save money again.

Soon, Jed receives the news that destroyed so many - the banks had failed.  Uncle Jed lost everything.  Despite this huge setback and the doubt of many, Jed still did not give up.  He continued to go to people's home to cut hair.  At times, he accepted garden produce as payment.  Many other times, he cut hair for free.  In the end, Uncle Jed was able put enough money away from his paying customers to start his own barbershop at age 79.  Needless to say, he received a tremendous amount of support from all of his customers.

I absolutely love the message in this book.  The teachers at our school have recently read The Leader in Me, and this book matches perfectly with the first habit, be proactive.  Uncle Jed chose not to give up.  He made some sacrifices with his money, and there we some things that were out of his control.  However, he made the decision to maintain a positive attitude and stay true to his dream.

This is an excellent book to use for theme (perseverance, stay true to your dreams, etc.)  There are also some very clear cause and effect relationships.

Because Uncle Jed paid Sarah Jean's hospital bill, he had to postpone getting his barbershop.
The banks failed.  As a result, Uncle Jed lost all of his money.
People came from miles away when Uncle Jed's barbershop finally opened, so he kept it open all night long.

I usually read this book to my class two or three times through the year.  Once at the beginning of the year to talk about goals and being proactive.  I read it later in the year for theme, cause and effect, and/or story elements.  My students have never had a problem with hearing this story more than once!

I'm on my way to check out all the other great historical fiction resources.  Thank you, Jivey for hosting this very helpful linky.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Peek at My Week

Hello Everyone!  Today I am linking up with Jennifer from Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for her fun linky, A Peek at My Week.

I have heard so many rave reviews about Dave Burgess' book Teach Like a Pirate that I just had to read it.  It came in the mail Friday.  I have just started reading it, and I already love it.  I will definitely spend some time reading more of it this week.

Our next writing project will be "A Day in the Life of..."  I talked about this in an earlier post.  You can read about it here.  I had originally intended to start this project last week, but I slightly postponed the project after reviewing some writing goals.  One thing I want to strongly encourage my students to do is use more figurative language in their writing.  After reading posts from Ideas by Jivey and Collaboration Cuties, I knew that Runde's Figurative Language Snow Globes would be the perfect way for me to get some fun practice in before we started our next writing.

December Craftivities - Literacy-Themed Craftivities for December 

We started this last week, and we will finish up with our final two (onomatopoeia & personification) this week.  I did find some great videos to go with them.  Here is one on onomatopoeia.  

This is the video I plan on showing for personification.

I am looking forward to completing and displaying these globes.  The students are doing a great job!

I'm off to see what others have planned.  Thank you, Jennifer for hosting this linky.

Have a great week!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Spark Student Motivation Saturday - Adding Art to Social Studies

Hello Everyone!  Today, I am linking up with Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching for her awesome linky, Spark Student Motivation Saturday.


Let me start by saying, I am not an artist.  However, I love exercising my creativity and "attempting art".  My students always enjoy when I mix things up in social studies, and including art activities is one way I like to do this.  

We have just finished talking about the problems Ohio had becoming a state and how they overcame them.  While talking about Ohio's statehood, students learned about the meaning of the state flag through this click and reveal SMARTboard activity I made.

After learning about the flag, students created their own flags.  Here is a sample one.

We also learned about the State Seal.  I created another click and reveal activity to foster predictions and discussion.

Students were able to show some creativity with their art work in this next project.  Students came up with items that represented themselves.  They drew these items on a paper plate which was their personal seal.  Then, students wrote about the significance of each item.  The writing gave us a chance to review opening and closing sentences, adding details, and sentence variety - great bonus!

Here is a sample one I made.  (Please remember, I am NOT an artist.  You can get the idea though.)


I would love to share some of the seals my students completed, but I'm not sure if I need to get parent permission or school permission to do so.  If someone could let me know what they did in order to be able to show student work on their blog, I would appreciate it.  Student work always provides a clearer picture than mine, especially when art is involved.

At this point of the year, I know my students very well.  However, I always learn more about each student from what they decide to put on their seal.  I love the integration of social studies, art, and language arts.  My students are motivated by the personalization and creativity of this activity.  

I would love to hear any creative ideas you have about integrating art into social studies. 

I'm off to check out all of the other motivating ideas.  Thank you, Joanne for hosting this linky.  I just love reading all the ideas every week.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend, and stay warm!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Great Professional Book for Writing Conferences

Hello Everyone!  Today I would like to share a great book that has been on my reading list forever.  The book is called How's it Going?  The author is Carl Anderson, who has worked very closely with Lucy Calkins.  (She wrote the foreword.)  I am so glad I finally read this book.

This book takes a close look at writing conferences.  The advice is practical, and I was able to put it to use immediately.  The structure for these conferences allows for about five minutes.  The conference begins with a general question, such as, "How's it going?"  If the student shares an appropriate agenda for the conference, you can focus on that.  However, there is lots of helpful advice if the students does not have a focus or if his/her stated focus is not appropriate at that time.

The teacher's role in the conference is to listen carefully and guide the student toward appropriate strategies that match their agenda.  Then, the student is encouraged to "have a go" and link the strategy to their independent writing.  Anderson is very clear that the students are expected to apply what they discussed during  the conference.  However, it is up to the student what they would like to keep for their final draft.  The structure of my conferences has not changed dramatically, but I now have many fresh ideas on how to address appropriate goals, honor the students' agenda, and hold students accountable.  I really like that the focus of the conferences is work "in progress", rather than a "finished" piece of work that is ready for a "final edit" from the teacher.

This is definitely one of my favorite books on teaching writing.  The focus is almost solely on planning and carrying out writing conferences.  However, there is practical advice and examples for selecting mentor texts, mini lessons, running the workshop in general, and how all of these factors influence the effectiveness of individual conferences.

After reading this book, I modified the form I use when conferring with students about their writing.

Ideally, the students will set the agenda for the conferences by telling me what they are working on as writers (not what their writing is about).  In the teacher section, I record the specific strategy I decide to teach/review to help students meet their agenda.  My goal is to have students come up with a plan to immediately begin practicing the strategy we discuss.  I record this in the practice/plan section.  This form isn't terribly different than the ones I have previously used, but the tweaks I made help make my records clearer and the conferences seem to run a little smoother.

I ended up liking this form enough to create a similar one for reading conferences. 

If you are interested in trying either or both of these forms, you can get the for free by clicking here.

Have you ever read this book?  If so, let me know what you thought about it.  If not, I highly recommend it!

Thank you!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Peek at my Week, with a Point of View Focus

Hello Everyone!  Today I am linking up with Jennifer from Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for her fun linky A Peek at my Week.


This week, we are focusing on point of view. Yesterday, I read a post on Ideas by Jivey where she talked about using Pixar shorts.  I was totally inspired by this post, and I have decided to give it a try this week.  The one I will use is called Dug's Special Mission.

Before showing the video, I will randomly assign students to retell the story in either first person from Dug's point of view, first person from one of the other dogs in the pack's point of view, the bird's point of view, or to write the story in third person.  I am super excited to give this a try.  After watching, students will write their retelling and share them in groups that include a students with each point of view.  It should be interesting to discuss the differences in each one.

Another activity I am planning this week is one of my favorite writing activities called "A Day in the Life of..."  First, I will read students A Day in the Life of Murphy.

This book tells about a day from Murphy's point of view.  After that, students will write their own piece about A Day in the Life of... something.  In the past, I have had some very creative responses to this, including Justin Bieber's hair (when it was longer), a basketball, and a silly band.

You can click here and here to see other activities I use for point of view.  My students will tell you that I say all of the units (and books) are one of my favorites, but (if I had to pick just one) I'd have to say this one is my favorite.

I'm off  to see what everyone else is up to this week.  Thank you, Jennifer for hosting this linky.

Have a great week!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Spark Student Motivation Saturday - Mystery Balloons

Hello Everyone!  Today, I am linking up with Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching for her awesome linky Spark Student Motivation Saturday.

I would like to share one of my favorite SMARTbaord review games with you.  The reason I like it so much is that it can be used for any grade level and any subject.  It is great for those times when I want to practice a skill, but I don't have time to create something completely new.  The game is called Mystery Balloons.

The game can be played with partners, small groups, or the entire class.  You just need to ask students a question or assign them a task.  If the students successfully complete what you ask, they can come up and pop a balloon.  They earn the point value under the balloon.

The first set of balloons has point values 200-2400 (counting by 200).

The second set of balloons has point values 300-3600 (counting by 300).

The third set of balloons has point values 400-4800 (counting by 400).

If you are interested, you can get this game for free by clicking here.  It is fully editable if you want to make any changes to the points, color, etc.

I'm off to check out all of the other motivating ideas!  Thank you, Joanne for hosting this awesome linky!

Enjoy the long weekend!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Point of View Resources on Freebie Friday

Hello Everyone!  We are currently working on a unit covering point of view.   I have a few fun resources to share with you.  There are a couple of short videos that I like.  Brainpop has a great one that introduces the different points of view.


When taking notes on the different points of view, I used this foldable.  

(The foldable template is from Lovin Lit, and the frames are from Dancing Crayons.)

We talked about second person, but first and third person are the ones mentioned in the Common Core for fourth grade, so those are the ones we focused on.  

I am linking up with Teaching Blog Addict for Freebie Friday.  You can get a free copy of this foldable by clicking here.

There are tons of great mentor texts to use for point of view.  Here are a few of my favorite poetry books. I will talk about some of the picture books and chapter books in a future post.

Once I Ate a Pie

This one is my favorite!  I blogged about it here.

Who Needs Birds When Dogs Can Fly?
More poems from a dog's point of view.

If the Shoe Fits: Voices from Cinderella
Poems "told" from points of view of different characters and items from Cinderella.  I love to read the poems and have students guess whose point of view it is.  Some are easy, but some are quite challenging.

This Is Just to Say
After reading apology and forgiveness poems from this book, I have my students choose two characters from their book.  One character has to write a letter asking for forgiveness.  The other character responds.  Students are to stay true to the character and decide if they should be forgiven or not.

That's all for today.  I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thank you!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winner of 100 Followers Giveaway

I wanted to thank everyone for entering my 100 followers giveaway.  I am very excited and extremely grateful for the support I have received.  Congratulations to Allison for winning the $10 TPT gift certificate.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enjoy the rest of the week!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Peek at my Week and 100 Followers Giveaway

Hello Everyone!  I am beyond excited to reach 100 followers.  I have truly enjoyed getting to know so many wonderful teachers through the blogging world.  It has definitely been a fun journey.  To show my appreciation for all of the support I have received, I am giving away a $10 TPT gift certificate.  See the rafflecopter below to enter and win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'd also like to share two other awesome giveaways going on now.  The first is at Ideas by Jivey.  She is giving away an Amazon gift card and TPT $$$.  Finally, I'd like to thank Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper and Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching for all of their giveaways celebrating their 1,000 followers these past 10 days.  They have one final giveaway for an Amazon gift card and a Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener.  All three of these bloggers are incredible!

Now, I am linking up with Jennifer from Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for her fun linky, A Peek at my Week.

I think I am actually going to have a five day work week.  Between winter break and the weather, I haven't had one of those in a while.  Here are a few things I have going on this week.

We have COSI on Wheels coming to our school on Wednesday.  COSI is an awesome science center for kids of all ages.

Our History 

The program we will have is called "Astounding Astronomy".  I no longer teach science, and I definitely miss it.  I am super excited to get a good dose of science on Wednesday.

Astounding Astronomy

My students will have a test in economics on Friday.  To help them prepare, I made some games on the Quia website.  I blogged about this site here.

You can try the games I made by clicking here.

I'm off to see what everyone else has planned for the week.  Thank you, Jennifer for hosting this linky.  Have a great week!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tried it Tuesday & Techie Tuesday - Explain Everything App in Guided Reading

Hello Everyone!  Today, I am linking up with Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried it Tuesday.

This week, I have a techie tried it, so I am also linking up with Karla from Technology Tailgate for Techie Tuesday.

A while back, I tried using the app Explain Everything in a guided reading group.  I first heard of this wonderful app from Karla at Technology Tailgate

 Cover art

The book I used was Skinnybones (guided reading level O).  If you haven't read this book, you really should.  It is hilarious!

This particular reading group was working on expanding vocabulary.  I selected three words from chapter seven.  The words slowly appear on the screen, and students try to guess the word as soon as they can, making adjustments as more letters appear.  After decoding the word, the next slide reads a short passage from the book, including the word from the previous slide.  Students then use the context clues to determine the meaning of the word.

Here is what the students saw.

After hearing all three passages, the students were able to make great predictions on what would happen in the chapter.

The students loved this activity.  I teach two sections of language arts, and both sections had a group reading this book.  In a later meeting, I allowed students to select words for the other class to guess.  They created slides like the first one I made.  They did their best to stump each other.

This activity took a little more prep than the typical guided reading lesson.  However, it was worth it.  The students loved it and learned from it.  The best part of it is that I now have the video saved for future use.  I plan to incorporate this app into future guided reading lessons.  I am looking forward to sharing them with you.

I'm now off to see what everyone else has tried and to check out some tech ideas.  Thank you, Holly and Karla for hosting these linkies!