February 21, 2016

Five for Friday: WHAT A WEEK!

What an awesome week!!! Linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for another episode of Five for Friday!

We have been working super SUPER hard this week on our writing. Our current unit is writing in response to literature. This week we practiced with the short passage in the writing books, but then also with our mentor reading text Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens. I LOVE this book! It's such a wonderful text that can be used across grade levels to teach characters and character development, sequence and retelling, and also central message or theme. I know my kiddos will be prepared and ready for 4th grade's writing expectations! Quick tip, it takes a little while but I love to type up passages, excerpts, or the mentor text in it's entirety so students can have their own copy of the text to annotate and refer to. 

I saw a post from Teaching in Room 6 a few weeks ago and fell in love with how she used Tagxedo in her classroom with theme. We have used Tagxedo when writing about main idea and details but I just knew we had to use it for our study on central message this week. The students used the picture book Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna and wrote short response paragraphs about the central message or lesson in the text using key details from the story as evidence to support their answers. IT WENT GREAT! When they were done they created their Tagxedo pieces in the shape of an apple and printed them for display! 

Besides all of our awesome reading and writing this week we also studied geometry! My students are officially quadrilateral experts. We ended our week with one of my favorite cooperative activities where students take on the roll of teacher and create anchor charts (they love this) identifying the critical information about a concept. Typically I have them present these to the class and pretend to be teachers a little longer, but I decided to switch it up. The anchor charts were posted around the room and the groups rotated around critiquing each other's posters using the "I NOTICED.... AND I WONDERED...." methods. Such a success! 
" I noticed they created a web to share their information. I like this."
"I wonder why they chose to leave out some of the attributes. I think those are important." 

And on Fridays we take selfies! Wandered around the room to facilitate this adventure and just had to stop for some group shots and quick selfies for our end of the year video!

The husband and I went on another one of our planned date outings last week. We did a walkabout or progressive dinner. We started at one location for a small bite, and worked our way around the block or neighborhood, visiting several locations throughout the evening. It was rather interesting. We also enjoyed Monday (President's Day) off from school. Such a nice extra day to get work, errands, and time with our boys in. 

February 7, 2016

Using Free Resources to Create Standards Based Reading Homework

Reading homework is a challenge. You want the kids to read their own novels or books at home at night, but have no way of knowing if they really do. Your book lovers will, your students with supportive parents will, but you have some that just won't. Over the last several years I have tried many different approaches.

For a while I did a reading log. They had to read so many minutes a night and then their parents signed off saying they did it. This solved some problems, but not all of them. Some parents would sign and not pay attention, and other parents would forget to sign and then the children would cry and reassure you they actually did do the reading. Worst of all, just because they were sitting with a book in their hands doesn't mean they were actually reading.

After running into issues with that, I found an adorable monthly reading "MENU" which had the students choose from different activities to do throughout the week based upon their book. So, I was addressing the problem of parents signing a reading log, and students had to be reading (at least somewhat) in order to do most of the activities on the menu. But, this menu came with new problems. The activities were cute but not necessarily on grade level or standards based. As adorable as a photograph of the story is, for 3rd graders it's not always the best option. My new principal this year is leading the way in the district for standards based instruction, and I have to say while it did seem like a lot of extra work on my part at first, I was fully on board once I understood what she was looking for. And sadly..... this adorable appetizer, entree, dessert just wasn't going to cut it.

So thinking and thinking, searching and searching, and the PERFECT idea came to me. So, now what am I using? I'm so glad you asked? #iwasgonnashareanyways There are so many fantastic resources out there to us as teachers that are FREE. Don't get me wrong I love #TPT and I have purchased some amazing products over the years, but there are some places to get tons of resources by just signing up, most of them are very well known. Read Works and NEWSELA are my favorites!!!! So many amazing passages all available to us instantly.

It's so simple! The students get one passage or article (less than 3 pages) each week. They also get a cover sheet, which has their instructions for the week. I created two, one informational and one fiction, that I tweak slightly depending on what skill we are focusing on that week or something I know they need extra practice in. For the most part though, they look very similar. This is great for us, it provides consistency. Students and parents are understanding what is expected with little assistance from us, and it's a great indicator of how well a student is grasping a concept. BONUS, the article is pretty short so it still allows students ample time for reading for pure enjoyment. My principal loved this so much she took it to her data meeting with the area superintendent, who then shared it with other principals. #YIKES #LOVEIT

It's not beautiful but boy does it work. Here is an example of a cover sheet and article turned in by a student.

As you can see it can be used with almost any non-fiction article, and most fiction stories. I have tweaked it slightly (format wise) throughout the last few months. You can sang your fiction cover sheet by clicking for your FREEBIE HERE and the informational cover sheet by clicking for your FREEBIE HERE

Fonts from KG Fonts and Hello Literacy
I hope you enjoy :)