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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tweet! Tweet! A reading response option

In an earlier post, I shared that  I am working to mix up my reading response options for my students.  One of the options that I am giving students this year is Twitter.

I used Twitter in the classroom two years ago successfully, but with last year's craziness, I kind of dropped it.  I am planning to really make it work this year.

I have a class account for Twitter, and that is what the students will use.  Even though all will have access to their own computer, I pull our account up on our classroom computer, and that is where they post their tweet. 

This year, I will recommend that everyone try to do one tweet every two weeks.  When they think they know what they want to say (about a book they are reading independently or one that we are looking at as a class) they will write the tweet into their Reading Notebook.  Once I give it the okay, they will be allowed to put it out there on Twitter.  So that I can keep track of who has tweeted, students will be asked to put their initials at the end of their tweet.

I am even thinking that we may find a way to keep track of retweets, quotes, and responding tweets.  We found two years ago that there are a lot of other classrooms on Twitter.  It was cool to connect with students around the world.  This year, I am really going to encourage our parents to follow us on Twitter, too.

We will also use our account to create class tweets after learning new accounts or to share other things we are doing in our classroom.  It is a great way to focus on main ideas and determining importance!

Do you have other ideas for using Twitter with your class?  I would love to hear them!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Independence Day + Close Reading

I have been motivated by my patriotic spirit....I am so incredibly blessed to be part of this fabulous nation, and weekends like this remind me of all of the great things that our country has to offer.

One of the most difficult things I am finding with all of our new initiatives is being able to find time to teach social studies and science.  Many people are okay with pushing them aside in favor of more reading time, and while I am a huge proponent of reading, I also believe that we need to expose our students to necessary background information in the content areas. 

I think what I have created will help in a couple of ways.  It will allow me to incorporate more exposure to history and geography while also exposing students to more reading of nonfiction.  In addition, the hope would be that kids will begin to pick up on key words in the text to help them solve the question.

What I am attaching is a sampler of what I made for my class.  It is an activity called "What's My Name?"  I will display it in my room by revealing a clue each day of the week and offering students the chance to guess who/what they think it is.  I have seen commercial versions of things like this before, but I think they typically are just people.  In my version, I am also including cities and landmarks.

Feel free to use if you wish.  It is nothing fancy, but it is good information.  I learned some new things preparing these pages.    I hope you and your students enjoy!

Click on the flag for the link to the What's My Name Sampler

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Notebook Connections

While traveling last week, I had the time to read Aimee Buckner's book Notebook Connections.  As I stated earlier, I am really looking to "beef up" my student's reading responses this year.  I have done workshop for a long time, and I have had my students respond to their reading, but not to the level that will help them to meet the CCSS.  This book was a great read and really broadened my ideas!
I am still considering having the students choose from a variety of writing choices as I discussed in my earlier post, but instead of having them choose one response for me to score, I think that I will use Ms. Buckner's more holistic approach and collect their notebooks every two weeks and give them a grade for variety and depth of entries in the notebook.  I will score the notebook and make one response in general to the four-five entries they have written.

Another goal for this year's reading workshop is to do a better job of using the notebooks while conferencing with students.  I work hard to meet with students quite frequently, but I do not do a great job of reviewing and discussing their notebook entries with them.  I want this to be an area where I grow this year.

I am now going to read Ms. Buckner's writing notebook book called Notebook KnowHow.  I am sure that, while it focuses on writing workshop, it will still help me to continue to fine-tune my thoughts on student responses to reading.

Have you read either of these books?  Do you have any ideas to share?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Words Their Way Game Freebie

This fall, I will begin my 3rd year using Words Their Way in my classroom.  It will be the first year that it is district curriculum.

I am glad that I have used it for a couple of years, as I have been able to become more comfortable with it and make changes to my plans as I go.  In general, I think it is a good program.  I have found parents relatively receptive to it although some still struggle with understanding how it works.

This game I made for Monday Made It with Tara.  It is a pretty easy game, and I will continue to develop it for more sorts as the  year continues.  So far I have made the game for sorts 1-15 in Book 3.  The majority of my 3rd graders have been falling into the Syllables and Affixes stage, so I decided this was a good place to start.

I started with some of those little gems that you use in the bottom of vases.  I got these at Michaels.

I used circle labels to mark some as Free Choice, Lose a Turn, and Oddball.  These will be able to used throughout the year for all of the sorts I create.

Next, I began with Unit 1 in the above book, and I put the headers for the Unit 1 sorts onto other gems.  As we start sorts, I will pull out the gems the kids need to complete the sort. Most sorts have about three headers.  That will mean 3 gems plus one free choice and lose a turn gem making a total of about 5 gems for the game.

These gems will be placed in a bag or cup in the middle of the two players. The students will take their sort cards and lay them in a pool face up.  (Each player will have their own pool.)  They will then put their sort headers onto a piece of paper in front of them.  They will follow these directions to then play the game.

Basically, the first player to place all of their cards in the sort correctly wins.  We will typically have about 20-30 minutes of word work each day, so I think that this game will be able to be completed during this time.

I am making three sets of gems for each unit which will allow 6-9 kids to play.  Most of my groups do not have more than 9 students in them.

Well--There is my Monday Made It!  Go check out Tara's website to find more great ideas!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Writing about Reading

What do you do to have your students write about their reading?  This is an important part of reading workshop, and I have tried many different ideas. I am working to merge what my district wants with what I feel best about for my students.

My district uses reading and writing workshop for our literacy instruction.  I love it!  I have implemented reading workshop (in a variety of forms) for about 20 years now.  One piece that I am working to make stronger is my students' thoughtful entries.  I was having them write one strong blog entry a week plus a comment on another person's blog.  This worked well for most, but for some of my students it was just too much. 

Last school year, I made it one thoughtful blog entry every two weeks.  This seemed more manageable for most of my kids and allowed for more time for them to read!  However, about midway through the year, we were told that our kiddos should be completing two thoughtful entries PER WEEK!  Ahh!  Not only is that a lot of writing, it could also equal up to a lot of grading!  Upon further exploration, we were told one should be a thoughtful entry and another could be a graphic organizer or something else that shows good thinking. I am trying to figure out how to do this and keep my mind.  (what little is left of it)  I am a huge believer in student choice.  So I am going to set my students up in a two week rotation.  Every week, half of the class will be responsible for choosing one of the responses they have done in the last two weeks and turn it in to be scored.

My current plan is that each student will have one of these in their binder and will check off as they finish different responses in the two week period.  When they choose which one they want to submit for me to score, they will mark it on this chart, too.  That way they will be able to see if they are offering me diverse responses to score.  (The tweets and book tree options will probably not be offered as scorable opportunities)  The blank columns are for weeks when they are given a different type of response option.

This is TOTALLY still a work in progress.  Thoughts?  Ideas?  Do you have a thoughtful response method that you find to be really valuable?  I want this to be good learning for the students, but I also want them to have some control, too!


Share your thoughts and ideas.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Made it!

I really do try to make my summer projects be ones that are functional as well as cute, but this one is only for looks.

I am sure you have seen the ribbon chandelier on Pinterest.  Well, I decided to make one to hang over my classroom library.

This was my beginning.  I wasn't satisfied with its look though.
I had seen one on Pinterest using a hula hoop as a base, but I decided to use wire wreath frames so that I could layer it.  I have a larger frame on the top and the smaller one suspended in the middle.  My room colors are greens and blues, so I used green, white, yellow ribbon on the outside frame and blues and purple ribbons on the inner ring.
I decided to add more tulle to the tops of the frames to not only hide the frames better, but to give it a more finished look.  I used fishing line to connect the two frames and to hang the entire thing.  I think it will look cute in the classroom.

I will make sure not to hang it too low.  Don't want to tempt any kids to pull on those ribbons!
Thanks again, Tara, for the motivation to get things done in the summer!  I know it will make a big difference when school starts!

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I have taken a more than HUGE hiatus from my blog.  The last school year was a very trying one for me.   Our district's initiatives and expectations required so much of my time that I had to step away from my blog.

I have begun summer by doing a lot of NOTHING.  It has felt good to give my teaching brain a break.  I have read a lot of books.  Here are some I have enjoyed. 

The Titanic series was a fun and easy one to read.  I know many of my students will enjoy it.  Even though I know a lot about the events of the Titanic, this gave me some new information, and I really enjoyed the characters.  They would be good to help kids better understand the beginning of the 20th century.

 I liked As Simple as it Seems.  It was a "girl growing up" book.  It had a voice that I enjoyed, and I can see some of my strong girl readers enjoying it, too.

Masterpiece is by no means a new book, but one that I had not gotten around to reading.  I liked the mystery, but I enjoyed the art history lessons more.  It reminded me of the Blue Balliet books that I love--Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3, and The Calder Game.  What better way to teach students art history than through a good mystery and strong characters?

I read Ghost Train to Nowhere because I thought some of my more reluctant readers will enjoy it..  It was probably too much for many of them, but I think I will have an audience for it.  It kind of reminded me of a Scooby Doo episode.  :)

Adventures in Cartooning was cute.  Definitely good for my reluctant readers and for my students who enjoy writing cartoons. 

You may remember from other posts that I am really enjoying the Theodore Boone series.  The Accused is not the newest in this series, but it is new in paperback, and I don't typically buy hardback books for my classroom.  Theodore Boone is a kid detective/lawyer who is easy for kids to understand.  This book is actually a continuation of the first Theodore Boone book, but  I don't think it is necessary to read the first to understand this.  Another good thing about this series is that it is written by John Grisham.  I like to expose my readers to authors that they can enjoy throughout their lives.

One Amazing Thing is not a book for my classsroom.  It is a book that my son is being asked to read as part of his university's freshman reading program.  It was a nice book to read, and I am glad that I read it to share my ideas with my son.  He is not much of a reader, but I think that he will be interested to learn about the characters in this book.  In the story, the characters are trapped in an office after an earthquake, and they decided to pass the time by sharing one amazing thing about their lives.

So today's post is my effort to get back in the swing of things.  I have  a lot to share from the last school year plus things I have been working on this summer. I hope there are still people out there that are reading....:)