Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stellaluna and Bats! Article to Annotate and Storyline Online




Hi, Friends!

With Halloween only a few days away, my students and I have been getting into the spooky spirit by studying bats. We've read one of my favorites, Stellaluna, and are completing some reading activities from our Fiction and Nonfiction Stellaluna and Bats unit to go along with the story.



Yesterday we made inferences as I read aloud the story, and today we completed a cause and effect chart. These are two important skills that always need review! :)

One cool thing (that y'all probably already know about) is that you can actually watch a reading of the book Stellaluna on the website Storyline Online.


My kids and I really enjoyed this! It's awesome because they add music in the background, and zoom in on the amazing illustrations. And, for my kids that wanted to hear the story again or share it with a family member, all they have to do is go to the website at home because it's FREE! There are tons of great books on this website! Another Halloween favorite available there- I Need My Monster- please check that one out if you haven't :)

Tomorrow, we are going to start reading some nonfiction books and articles about bats, and we are going to compare what we learn to Stellaluna. Bats by Gail Gibbons is one I always use, but there are many other great informational bat resources available.

I found an article about vampire bats on National Geographic Kids website. I printed it out so that each of my students can annotate on the text.



We are going to read the article together and keep track of our thinking- what we learn, what we wonder, connections, etc. It's a fun way to close read such an interesting topic! Here's a link to the article: Vampire Bats

If you are interested in our Stellaluna resource, it's available in our TPT store here: Stellaluna Pack



Have a great rest of your week! Happy (early) Halloween! :)


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Winners of the NEW Constructed and Extended Response Math Performance Tasks!





Happy Sunday! I hope you've had a great week! :)

Here are our winners from the Pin It to Win It for the NEW Constructed and Extended Response Math Performance Tasks!!! If you won, we've emailed you!

Our 2 WINNERS are-



Thanks to everyone who participated! :)  

Hope you have a great week!


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tackling Constructed Response Math Performance Tasks {How to and a Pin It to Win It!}






Happy Sunday, Everyone! :)

I am so excited to share how Amanda and I have been "TACKLING" math problem solving lately! 

We created a resource to help prepare our students for solving constructed and extended response math problems. Problem solving has always been an important part of our math instruction, but the Common Core Standards and new state and national assessments have changed how we present these problems. Students are still required to think critically, but now they are also responsible for explaining their thinking in words. Writing an explanation of how you solved the problem is just as important as solving it correctly. - AND THIS IS TOUGH for our kids!!!

Since this is a new way of thinking for students (and teachers!), we knew that we needed a way to simplify the process. When our students first saw the examples of constructed and extended response performance tasks from our state, many panicked or cried or shut down. They were overwhelmed, and so were we! That’s why we decided to create a plan for teaching our kids how to think like mathematicians and solve these performance tasks.

We created a little "PLAYBOOK" to explain...Can you tell I have football on the mind!?  :)


We’ve set up 5 weeks of instruction for each unit- you don’t have to use all 5 weeks- just pick what works for you! For each week, you are given a lesson plan of daily “Math Performance Prompts”, a “Weekly Work” activity, and a culminating “Performance Task.”


Students prepare Monday through Thursday for the Performance Task on Friday. The “Math Performance Prompts” are designed to be a 5-10 minute quick lesson to prepare your students for Friday’s “Performance Task.” We use it as part of our Calendar time at the beginning of Math class. Here's an example below.



Okay, on to Play 2!


The “Weekly Work” activities can be used as daily work, homework, or even part of a center rotation. These activities give students practice with the skills needed to solve the “Performance Task” on Friday. We love the structure of Monday-Thursday!

And Play 3!


Finally, on Friday, you can complete the “Performance Task” with students or use it as an independent assessment. There is a detailed rubric and scoring guide included for each task.

What I love most about this is that my kids are becoming more CONFIDENT in their math thinking and their willingness and ability to solve these constructed response problems. This type of problem solving isn't easy, and I hope that by scaffolding their learning, we can enable our kids to be successful. 

We hope this system helps you and your students tackle Constructed and Extended Response Performance Tasks. We will be creating tasks for each unit of study in fourth grade. Check out the first unit here- Place Value. It's aligned to the 4th Grade Common Core Standards, but can definitely be used as a review with 5th grade as well. 


We are almost done with our Addition, Subtraction, and Estimation Unit, as well as our Multiplication Unit and will be posting them in our store soon! 

If you would like a FREE copy of the Place Value Unit, please PIN IT TO WIN IT! Yes, we will email this unit to 2 WINNERS!

Please Pin this Image:

Click on the image above and pin it. Then, copy the URL of your pin and paste it in the comments.  Also, leave your email address so if you win, I know where to send it!  I'll choose two winners!!  


***Here is a FREEBIE Addition Performance Task if you would like to try it out!  :)


Thank you so much for stopping by and reading this LOOOOOOOOONG post!
I hope you have a Wonderful Rest of your Weekend! :)


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Estimating Sums Partner Game Freebie



Happy Thursday, friends! :)  Only one more day till the weekend! Yay!!!

My students and I have been working really hard on our rounding skills as well as addition and subtraction. Now, we have moved into estimation. Even in fourth grade, this is a skill that needs lots of PRACTICE. So, I have created a quick, fun partner game that is perfect for my students to play while I am pulling groups during Math Workshop.



They roll 5 dice (and the kids love rolling 5 dice at once!), create 5 digit numbers, round, and add! And, it's football themed for fall! :)
GO GA DAWGS! and GA JACKETS! and ATLANTA FALCONS! (Sorry I had to add that in!- love my teams!)   :)


I hope this can be useful for you and your kiddos! Please download it for FREE in our TPT store.

Hope you are having a great week! Thanks for visiting us!



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!!
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