Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Figurative Language Fun with Book Ideas and a Freebie!



I know I have been away for soooooo long! But I am finally getting back into the swing of school, and ready to share what we've been working on.  :)  I'm so glad you are stopping by!


My students and I always LOVE our unit on figurative language! In fourth grade, we study similes, metaphors, idioms, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, alliteration, and personification.

We've been reading tons of books to explore how authors use figurative language in their writing. Check out the ones we've used-


We keep track of all the wonderful figurative language we find in our reading notebooks. We've made a page for each type of figurative language, and then as we read, we can just add examples we've found. After that, each student creates his or her own Figurative Language Book! Great for review and a classwork grade!

The Figurative Language Book is a FREEBIE if you would like to use it with your students. Click HERE to download it. 

Happy Wednesday! Hope you have a great day! :)


Thursday, September 4, 2014

How to Build a Better Sentence- The BEST way to start the school year in writing!!





I am soooooo excited to share with you how I started my writing lesson this year!  I tell you, I will always start my year this same exact way!!  I'm never going back to...whatever it was I started with!  ;O)

I came across a product called Build a Better Sentence by my friend Erin Cobb.  Well, if you know Erin, then you know everything she creates is phenomenal!  AND....wait for it....it's a FREE PRODUCT!  Score, right?  Well, little did I know how much a difference this freebie was going to make in my life (and the lives of my students!!!)!!!!!
I promise you I'm not being dramatic.  I mean, I really want to tell you to click straight over and DOWNLOAD IT RIGHT NOW but then you probably wouldn't come back to read my post...so I INSIST that you download it immediately after you read exactly WHY you have to have this product!!

(PS-  Erin did not ask me to review this product and she quite honestly didn't even know I had it...it's just that AMAZING that I have to share it with you because I REALLY want you to try it!)

So, you know how it goes at the beginning of the year as you think about your lesson plans.  Where do we start?  What are the kids going to be able to do?  What are we going to expect that they can do but they can't?  All of those thoughts go into your first lessons.  And it's scary.  And sometimes stressful.  But we all know that at some point, we have to jump in and just see where we can go.

So, I don't know about you, but being a 4th grade teacher, we heard a LOT about the new wave of testing that is going to be heading our way during our preplanning.  Our principal is very clear when she talks about the writing part of the standardized testing.  I mean, I'm pretty sure we all break into a cold sweat every time state testing is mentioned because, well, we all know that all multiple choice tests are completely different than selected response (the new fancy words for multiple choice), constructed response, and extended response tests.

I mean, we have to face reality.  They WILL have to be able to write clear answers to the questions.  Period.

So, that was on my mind when I was thinking about my first week's writing plans.  I mean, you would ASSUME that 4th graders would know how to write a sentence, right?  (you know what they say about that word assume- yeah, it really is true about that word.)

Well, they can write sentences.  Sentences like: I like football.  I play football.  I'm the quarterback.  I love to dance.

Yes.  They can write sentences.

(Now, I didn't mention that several of them did not use capital letters or periods....but it's true....they didn't. So is it really a sentence?  Maybe not...)

Anyway, as I was thinking about past years of students and how I thought they could write sentences but every year we really had to work on it, I started thinking.  I mean, they are going to HAVE to write good sentences for their responses.  And, even though it seems so simple, I really wanted to give them a foundation on HOW to write a good sentence BEFORE we jumped into full blown paragraphs.

I mean, I knew the 9 and 10 year olds were going to look at me like I was nuts for telling them "We are going to start out by learning how to craft a great sentence!" but I really didn't care.  Because IT'S IMPORTANT!!

So I kept thinking and thinking and then, I hit GOLD.  I remembered a product that my friend Jessica had told me about last year and I thought, let me look at that product and see if this is where I could start.  Sure enough, JACKPOT!  I found the Build a Better Sentence product tucked nicely in my TpT file and opened it up.

I made the decision right then and there to start with that.  It was the best decision I could have ever made!

We started on day 5 of the school year (which was a Monday).  We pasted in the first notes sheet in the pack and then I had them write a sentence in their journal.  Sure enough, the sentences were around three to five words long.  But that was ok because we were going to fix that!

Then, we pasted in the "Add a How" part (I have a picture below).  We highlighted what was important.  I modeled how I would use this helpful information in my own sentences.  There were 3 ways to add a how.  We tried all three ways.  I had them help me write the sentences.  They copied my examples in their own journals.  Then, at the end of the lesson, they went back to the page that had their original sentence and tried to add a how to their own sentence that made the most sense.  Of course, then we shared because that's the best kind of motivator for them!

Day 1, done.  Seriously.  That was all we did for writing that day.  And, it was enough.

Day 2, Tuesday, we reviewed what we had learned the day before.  Then, we pasted in "Add a Why."  This is an easy one, and comes pretty naturally.  Stick the word because in any sentence and you can already make it better!  Fabulous!

We followed the same routine.  We chose a different highlighter and highlighted key information.  I modeled my same original sentence, but we added a why part.  Then, they added a why part to their original sentence.  But here's the beautiful part.  They didn't just want to add it on to the first little sentence.  They wanted to add it to the sentence that had the how part.  Awesome!!  Add it on my friends!  Make an even better sentence!!

Here is what it looked like in our journals:
That was the end of the 2nd day of instruction for writing.

Day 3 we pasted in the "Add a When" part.  Now, I knew they wouldn't know what a preposition was because we teach that in 4th.  But, there were examples on the sheet so I knew they could use that to give them direction.  Plus, I knew that they would start to recognize prepositions since they had been exposed to this, so it was a win-win!

We highlighted important parts and then I modeled.  Well, I had a sentence and then I had them tell me how I could make the sentence better!  Again, they added to their sentence from the first day.  Well, actually they added to the sentence from the day before because they REALLY wanted to have better sentences!  Then, they shared!

Day 4, we added the last part, "Add a Where."  We did the exact same procedure as the days before.  Plus, we talked about prepositions again!  Then, they added to their sentence.

I had a student raise his hand and ask, "Do you think if we add it to our better sentence from yesterday that it will be a run-on?"

Hm.  Good question my friend.  The perfect opportunity for me to talk about how just adding words and more words does not necessarily make a good sentence.  We talked about how crafting a good sentence could actually have all of the parts, but most of the time they don't.  But, as long as it flows and makes sense, it's ok.

Then, I also took the opportunity to tell them that they can add some of these parts to the beginning of the sentence.  It doesn't have to be at the end.  Like for a when, they could start their sentence with "After school, I played football outside with my friends because I was bored."  See, that sentence has all the parts, but the when was moved to the beginning.  We just had to play with it until it worked!!  It really created a great discussion, and it was all about writing a sentence!!!

Here is what it looked like in our journals:
Each time we highlighted in a different color.  On the last day, I had them go back to their sentence and highlight what they added in the color used in our notebooks.
It looks like this student started with the sentence "I want a dog." and then realized that it wasn't a great sentence.  So she switched it.  Good for her!  Now, this was just the first time we did it, so I didn't expect perfect, but I was pretty pleased with how they did.

But, here's the kicker.  Now they have it in their notebooks.  And there is NO EXCUSE for writing sad sentences!!!  No excuse I tell you (and I tell them)!

Here's where it really hit.  We have been doing mentor sentences as well.  When we went to revise a sentence (which was already a good sentence), one of the first things my students did was open up their writing journals and start consulting the notes!  WHAAAAAAAT?????  I didn't even have to hint for it!!  And it was that SAME week we had just started practicing writing sentences!!!  I wanted to die of happiness!  All I had said was, "Remember, revising means we take a good sentence and make it better" and they were off!  They started yelling out ways we could put the Build a Better Sentence parts in to make it better!!  Hooray!!!!!

(By the way, we call Build a Better Sentence "BABS"- it works pretty well!  I'm pretty sure Erin did that on purpose because the file was titled BABS when I downloaded it!  She's so smart!  It's a lot faster to say "You need to look back at BABS" then to say it all out!)

So, last week we were writing similes and metaphors for a class book.  I explained that they needed at least one part from BABS in their sentence.  They had to bring me their sentence before they could start on their book page.  Sure enough, a few did not have a BABS part.  But, all I had to do was read it, look at them, and say, "Where's BABS?"  They would say "Oh, yeah, I know exactly what to add!" and run off and add it and bring it back and it was a better sentence!!

This has been so huge for me and my students!!!  I mean, really!!  I never used it last year when I found out about it because it was so late in the year.  But, I'm so glad that I started out with it this year!!!  I will ALWAYS start with this!  EVERY YEAR!!  I kid you not!

It seems so simple, right?  It is!!  I've said it before on this little blog, and I'll say it again!  Simple is often best!  When you over complicate things, it's not as effective!  Keep it simple!!  It will be successful!

If you haven't gone back to school, I highly recommend you trying this first thing!  And, if you've already started, it's not too late!!!  Add this into your instruction!  Seriously!!  I promise it will be worth the time!!  (I apologize for it taking me so long to blog about this!)

Each day that we did these lessons, I facilitated the learning, but my kids created the sentences for me and then they created their own.  They LOVED sharing their sentences, and they felt so proud of them!  Sure, I could have just had them paste all four mini-posters in their journals and told them they needed to use them from now on in their sentences, but what good would that have done?  I wanted to make it interactive!  I think it was!  So, I am linking this up to Erin's linky!!

Ok, so NOW I want you to click on the Build a Better Sentence product and go download it!  Did I mention it's FREE???  I mean, I feel like I need to pay Erin just for how much it has made a difference already in my students' writing!!  For real!!

AND, she has a paid product that you can also get that has even MORE resources for this!  Click HERE to find her Build a Better Sentence Workshop Center!

I hope this was helpful for you!  I surely want to kick myself for not using it before this year!!

Also, be sure to go check out all of the other ideas linked up to Erin's linky on making learning more interactive!

I hope you are having a great week!!!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Juice Box Bully - Creating a Community in Your Classroom



Hey there!  So, 4 days into the new school year and I am LOVING my new class!  I think one of the best things about our job is that we get to "start over" each year and we get fresh, new, precious faces, to work with!!

One of my major goals the first day of school is to build community and make my classroom feel comfortable and inviting!  I want them to WANT to come back the next day!  How do I do this you might ask?  Well, I am happy to tell you!  ;O)
I won't go into everything right now, but I will tell you about one lesson I did!  Now, since I teach 4th grade, kids are kind of on the brink of "finding themselves."  They are testing out who they want to be and what friends they want to surround themselves with.

Have you read Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy?
This book was first brought to my attention in one of our Mentor Text Linkies but I couldn't find who linked it up!!  If it was you, let me know so I can give you credit!  I'm so thankful!!!

This is a great book!  I can't even tell you how great!  You'll have to trust me and get it!  Especially if you teach upper grades!  This was the last book I read on the first day.   My goal of reading this book was to let my class know that we are a family.  We will not tolerate bullying.  Period.  I have very sweet kids, but I wanted to equip them to feel empowered to SAY SOMETHING if they saw any type of bullying.

I read this book and we talked about it as we went.  A brief synopsis from me is that there is a new student to a class named Pete.  In his old school, he was made fun of (bullied) so when he came to his new school, he immediately started bullying the kids before they could bully him.  However, the students of his new school had made a "promise" and would not allow the bullying.  In the end, they become friends with Pete and he stops being a bully.

We had great conversation about this.  My students picked up pretty quick (before the book explained) that Pete had obviously been treated badly to treat others that way.  We tried to troubleshoot how to get Pete to be nice.  They came up with some great solutions that were very close to the book.  I was so impressed!

After reading the book, we read the promise that the students had made when they first entered the class.  I typed it out and they also signed a class poster.  On top of that, I had them sign an individual piece of paper with the promise on it to hold them accountable.  The poster is now hanging on the wall outside our classroom (as you can see by the picture at the top of the post).

As a follow up activity, I had seen an activity called Friendship Salad by Terri Izatt that I found intriguing.
Now, I knew this was for kindergarten, but I thought it was an amazing idea!!!  You use fruit to make a friendship salad!  I don't want to give away too much information because this is her pack, but this was the best idea, for real!!!  She has a really cute story that goes with making the salad!  It's visual and kinesthetic and I knew the kids would "get it"!!!!

We made our salad and this is what it ended up looking like:

As we were making the salad I had the students use Terri's cut and paste activity.  They pasted as we added each fruit.
And as we pasted, I had them write the friendship attributes on the back of the paper.
My kids, 4th graders, seriously loved this!  As we made the salad, my picky self, was like, uhhhhh, wow...I'm not sure they're gonna eat this.  And then, there was the seriously sweet smell of it.  But, I called each table up to eat and guess what?!?  They ALL wanted some and they LOVED it!!  

(Annnnnnnnd, it doesn't help when you can't see their happy faces but I just wanted to prove to you they did eat it.  And even if you can't see it, they were smiling ear to ear!)

For morning work on school day 2 I had a brief questionnaire about the first day of school.  One of the questions was "What was your favorite part of the first day of school?"  Several put friendship salad!!!!  

Another question asked "What was something you learned on the first day of school?"  Several put something about Juice Box Bully like "My teacher wants us to behave and to help other kids behave" and "We should not bully anyone.  We are a family."

Hellooooooooooo?  Can you see why I already LOVE this class?!?  Precious!!!!!!  LOVE LOVE LOVE!

I wanted to link this up to my sweet, sweet friend Joanne's linky because I really hope it sparked student motivation to be great role models and citizens.  
Make sure you check out all of the motivation linked up!

I can't wait to share more about what we're up to this year.

How do you build community in your classroom?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Classroom Reveal- Monday Made It


Hey there!  I just wanted to pop in and show you a bit of my classroom!
We all know how we work sooooo hard to set up our classrooms so that they are a comfortable and inviting space!  To parents, it may not look like a lot, but we know the time and effort that went into it!  And it's all for the love of the children who will walk through those doors that first day!

I know this is not a traditional Monday Made It, but I do feel like I "made" the room and some of the things in it!  ;O)

I'm pretty proud of my desk space!  Well, not ON my desk, but behind it!  Y'all know I love books!  Well, they were organized, but not really cute.  Here's what it looked like before.
Sorry it's blurry!!  Yikes, right?  I mean they were organized but definitely not cute!  And then there were so many new books I hadn't found a spot for.  So, that's why I did this:
I got the bins (magazine holders) from Big Lots.  I love them!  They hold the bigger, longer books really well!  I did NOT love having to go to 3 different Big Lots repeatedly over the summer to get all of these and I'm not going to tell you what annoys me about this, although you can probably see it.  But I had to use what I could find.  I really wish they would have seasonal items online for purchase.  Oh well.  I still think it looks MUCH better than it did before.

I made those labels for them on the computer.  I really thought I was doing a good job with pictures but I didn't get close enough.
I'm not sure if you can use the labels, but I'm attaching them HERE if you'd like them for free!  It is an editable powerpoint so you can just type in there.  This is the first time I've made an editable file, so I hope it looks okay and works!

Here is the space just in front of my desk.  Please excuse the millions of pillows.  We use those during workshop time.  These amazing Grammar Morphology posters came from Kristen and Ladybugs Teacher Files and I'm so excited to have put them up this year!  I think they are going to be a great tool for my kiddos!
I made the "Parts of Speech" heading for the top of the posters.  :O)
Here is what my room looks like when you walk in.  I mean, you have peripheral vision so you'd see more but this is what my camera saw!  The board straight ahead has geography on it.  As we learn the terms we'll put the terms on the board and use string to label them.  It's our first unit in social studies!

This is what you see when you walk in my door to the left.
Here are my two carpet spaces.  The aqua rug is for whole group instruction at the board.  The zebra rug is for when I'm reading aloud.  I sit on the bench and read to them. The bench is a favorite spot during workshop time!  :O)  We spend almost the entire day on the carpet.  Really.  So when you see how their desks are to the side, that's because we are hardly ever at our desks.  A parent of a student I will have this year, who is also a teacher at another school, came in and said "Your room is huge!"  Well, it is a good sized room, but it seems huge because of all of the space in the middle.  It was strategic planning for the desks!
I have supplies in all of those drawers.  I need to label those next!

This is a picture from standing in front of my desk.  The board on the left is science (matter and the water cycle).  We will also add to that board as we go.  I feel like if you start the year with an explosion of materials on the walls, they'll never really "see" it because it becomes background.  But, if you let them help you put things on the wall, they do see it and reference it!
This is what it looks like when I stand at my kidney table.
And this is what it looks like from the front.
That crazy white space to the right is where they hang backpacks.  The wall is white because as we learn, I move posters, etc, over to that space so they are forced to look at it while they hang their backpacks!  ;O)

Here's another from the front corner!
I did make the pom poms for the tree.  Well, I mean I bought them from Party City and poofed them out.  But that's something, right?  Owls are obviously my classroom theme.  Why?  I just think they're cute!
Here is my classroom library that kids can get books from.  The bins are also from Big Lots and match the ones behind my desk.  The labels are from Kristen at Ladybugs Teacher Files. I obviously love all of her stuff!  I also have her Transitional Words Morphology Posters but I haven't figured out where I want to put them yet!  There are so many and all are valuable.  I may even put them in the hall and let them go out there during writing!
I love my window and my bench!

The day I took these photos (Friday) we were preparing to meet our students for the upcoming year at our registration.  I had these treats on the desk.
I didn't take a picture of the back after I had assembled them.  On the back is a label that says "4th Grade is a hoot!  I'm so excited to be your teacher this year!"  I made the heads with my Silhouette Cameo.  That was a process.  After some help from my friend Elizabeth at Fun in 4B and Megan at I Teach What's Your Super Power? I finally got it.  Totally user error, but it was a learning experience!

Oh, and all of this amazing clipart on my pictures is from Megan  at I Teach What's Your Super Power?  So cute, right???

So.  Here's the ONLY Monday Made It I've linked up all summer!  So sad, I know!  Make sure to go to the sweet and creative Tara's blog for more Monday Made Its!!
Have a great week!  Students come for their first day Tuesday!  I have staff development today.  I hope to be sharing some great activities we'll be doing very soon!
PS- Don't forget about the Back to School sale on TpT!!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Back to School Teacher Sale and Giveaway- Make sure to Enter!



Happy Friday, y'all!

Wow! This has been a busy week! We started preplanning on Tuesday, and today we meet our students for registration day. Yay!  :)

Amanda and I are getting super pumped for the upcoming Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School Sale! I know lots of you guys are too! Our Wishlist keeps growing...and growing...and...growing! There are so many awesome products that we want to buy and use with our kiddos this year.


We are sharing 2 of our Most-Wishlisted products with you, and sharing 1 product we have on OUR wishlist that we will be buying on Monday.

Also, we have an AWESOME giveaway for you! We teamed up with some of our BBB's to offer 3 TPT gift certificates! Woohoo!!! So make sure to enter at the bottom of this post!  :)


So, the 1st product that we want to share is our Causes of the American Revolution Informational Articles and Activities.  This pack contains 11 articles each with interactive notebook activities and comprehension questions! I love this product because it seamlessly integrates reading and writing into social studies.

These articles can be used to teach social studies content, but they are also perfect for close reading and discussion. Even if you do not teach the American Revolution, you might still be interested in incorporating this resource into your Language Arts lessons.

In my classroom, my students pasted these articles into their interactive social studies notebooks, and then we read them together. We did close readings on them, highlighting, underlining, and making notes about our thinking and learning. Then, we used the interactive flip books to review what we learned. Finally, I used the comprehension questions as an easy assessment grade.  The students practiced finding text evidence as they dug deeper into the articles to answer the comprehension questions.

My students really enjoyed reading the articles, and they used them (and the flip books) as a reference as we moved through our study of the American Revolution. Because we pasted them in to our notebooks, they were always right there for the kids to refer back to.  :)


The 2nd product that we want to share is our First Day Jitters Unit. This unit is great for the first week of school. If you haven't read this book by Julie Danneberg, you have to check it out! It is so cute, and it captures the emotions that students AND teachers feel at the beginning of a new school year. Even if the kids have already heard the story before, they love hearing it read to them again. I promise! Every year, my kids see me carry the book over to our carpet area, and they all start to whisper, "I love this book! It's so good!"

The unit we created to accompany the book contains activities to do with your students before, during, and after reading, as well as games and a jellybean and jitters jar activity. :) Lots of fun!


So what's one product we are buying for sure on Monday?  It's Close Reading Nonfiction Texts for Upper Elementary- August. I can't wait because I know this is going to be so valuable for me to use in my guided reading groups. I can also use it to assess my kids. It includes differentiated articles for all levels of learners AND close reading activities. Perfect! 

And now for the GIVEAWAY!!!


Please enter our giveaway so you can earn some TPT cash! :)  Have fun shopping!
 a Rafflecopter giveaway
Have a great weekend!  And don't forget to check out what my friends have wishlisted!



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why'd I buy it? Classroom rug...


Hey there!  I'm popping in really quick to join in on a fun new linky that my sweet friend AMC is starting this month!
Now, this girl likes to shop, but I do feel better when I can justify a purchase, you know?

Last year I bought a zebra print rug for my floor gathering area.

Here is a picture of this rug, in use, last year.  Now, it's a blurry picture, but can you see how the white is already looking dingy?  Yeah.  Yuck.  For some reason, it got really yucky pretty fast.  And, I even had one sweet child color with marker on the white part.  Yep.  Grrrr.

So, this year, I knew the wonderful custodians at my school would clean this carpet and it would look better.  But, I thought, I could move this carpet to another seating space in my room, that wasn't used as much, and I'd get another bright carpet for my room.  (See, justifying my purchase!  I needed a new rug, right?)

So, I saw this...didn't buy it, and then convinced myself that I needed it, and went back to get it!
It's beautiful, right?  It's really prettier in person.  It's aqua, my favorite color!

Um, do you see a problem with this?  Maybe the same problem I had last year?  Yeah.  I didn't see it until I'd bought it, rolled it out, loved it, and then took a second to think.

It has white.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to threaten them with their lives to be nice to my new rug.  What was I thinking????  Oh, I know.  It's aqua, and it's prettyyyyyyyyyy.  Pretty rug!!

So, now I have two rugs, both with white.  When I do my classroom reveal, I'll show you my two spaces.  Apparently, I haven't gotten very good pictures of it yet.  Maybe that's because I went back to school yesterday and I'm in that "back to school" zone of chaos and overwhelm?  I promise to take photos and show you my room!  But for now, I bought this carpet from Lowes because I needed it.  Yep, needed it.  Although I MIGHT should have done a better job of thinking that through.  Would I have changed my mind?  Heck no!!  It's AQUA!!!!!  I LOVE it!  I'll just threaten them....for real...

;O)

I can't wait to see what everyone links up!  I mean, I probably should wait because then I'm going to want to go shopping, but, I'm sure I can justify it, you know?  ;O)

By the way, my friend Lisa is having a giveaway!  Please make sure to stop by and enter to win!
I hope you have a great Wednesday! I have to do a presentation for fourth and fifth grade today so send good thoughts my way if you can!  I appreciate it!  ;O)


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sentences Packs- Two for Tuesday 50% OFF DEAL




Hey friends!

I am here to share a Two For Tuesday deal with you!  Please check out  The Teaching Tribune for all the amazing deals! There are ALWAYS great deals!



Today we are linking up 2 of our Language Arts units focused on SENTENCES! We always start the year teaching parts of speech and building sentences and types of sentences and sentences versus fragments, etc....so these 2 packs come in very handy.

They are on SALE today for 50% off, so if you are interested, please take a look...




We are back at school for DAY 1 of PREPLANNING today!!! Wish us Luck!  :)  Can't believe summer flew by like this!

Thank you for stopping by! Happy Tuesday!


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