Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Back to School Idea for Building Student Self-Concept- Adjective Silhouettes {Sparking Student Motivation}

Hey there!

I wanted to share a little project that I do at the beginning of the year.  I'm not sure how I came up with this idea...I honestly can't remember because I've done this every year for the last 4-5 years.  But, we have our curriculum night usually a week after school starts and that's really quick to have something out in the hall for a display.  So, this was a perfect solution!

Sorry for the blurry picture.  And for the fact they are hanging on a beige wall.  But the fire marshall will not allow us to use paper for our wall displays.  Don't even get me started on HIM.

These are our silhouettes.

The first week of school, I send home a half sheet of paper and ask parents to write AS MANY words as they can to describe their child.  I make sure to say that these words will be displayed in the hall and the more words they have, the more proud the student will be about their silhouettes!

This year was the first year that I used Tagxedo to make their word cloud.  Previously I had always used Wordle.

The issue I have with Wordle is that when you are sitting and typing all of those words, and then you create your word cloud and notice you may have misspelled a word or something isn't quite right with spacing, you can't just go back and fix it.  You have to retype all of the words.  So I had to remember to copy everything I had typed for each word cloud before I hit create and then if I had to correct something I'd have to go back and paste the words so I didn't have to retype it.  Anyway, it was a lot of thinking.

With Tagxedo, you don't have to do that.  If you make a mistake or need to add something, all of the words are right there.  So, that sold me.  Not to mention that Tagxedo makes actual shapes and the words are repeated over and over.  So, at first glance, it looks like each student has the same number of words.  But they don't.  Some only had five words while others had twenty.  But to make the shape, it repeats the words over and over.  In Wordle, if you only have five words, then you only have five words.  So, if your silhouette was next to someone's that had twenty words, you may feel a little sad about that.  So, that was another selling point.

So, once everyone returns their sheet, I type all of the words in.  Yes, it does take a bit of time, but it's totally worth it.  If a student doesn't return any words, I try to think of as many as I can for them.  But, with it being the first few days of school, that can be a little hard, so sometimes I do have to use generic words like kind and friendly.  I usually only have about one student each year that doesn't return it, so that's pretty doable.

So, if I'm lucky enough, I ask a parent volunteer to come in that first week and take about 30 minutes to pull kids into the hall and trace their silhouette while I'm teaching.  It's the one and only time I pull out my overhead!  ;O)  Students stand against the bare wall with the black paper taped there, the parent (or I) traces around their head using the light from the overhead to cast the shadow.  Done!

As a parent, I love this idea because as your children get older, there are no more handprint cards or poems that come home.  There is rarely anything that comes home that is completely personal to the child.  So, the parents really like this because they can keep it forever.  It's not a handprint but it's their child's silhouette from fourth grade!  It's sweet to look back on!

Once all of the words are printed, I cut them out and glue them onto the silhouette.  Then, I laminate them.  That's it!!  Simple and sweet!

The way that Wordle and Tagxedo work, the more you type the same word in the box, the bigger the word is.  So, I typed each word once but I typed their names at least three times, that way their name would stand out.  There are a lot of fun things you can do with the words.

If you've never used Tagxedo, and want to know more, I know there are some Youtube videos.  Or, if you'd like, I can create a tutorial for how I used Tagxedo.  I just didn't want to wear your patience here.  Just comment and let me know if you are interested in knowing how to use the website.  :O)  You may already know how!!

We are linking this up to our sweet friend Joanne for her Spark Student Motivation linky because I really think that every time they pass their silhouettes in the hall, it gives them a boost to see such wonderful words written about them.  And, I hope they will take them home and keep them where they can see them anytime they are feeling discouraged!  I usually send them home with the parents at our first parent-teacher conference (that way they aren't smushed in backpacks!!)

Be sure to go and check out all of the other wonderful motivators at Joanne's blog!!
Also, to spark motivation in you, be sure to go check out my friends Amelia and Diane because you MIGHT notice they are having a giveaway!!  You'll have to see it for yourself, but I guarantee it will spark some happiness in you!


Have a restful weekend!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tried it Tuesday

How long has it been since I've linked up with my dear friend Holly??  Too long!!

And not because I haven't tried anything, it's just a matter of getting it written in this little ol' blog!!  I need someone to help me with time management...for real...

Ok, so that's obviously not my tried it since I haven't been doing a good job at time management so we'll just move on...unless you have some tips...of how to plan, teach, grade, be a mom, get the idea.  Any advice is welcome!!  Bring it on!!  :O)

Ok, sorry for that tangent...

So, I'm sure you've heard of Donors Choose, right?

Me too. 

It terrified me.

I mean, what if no one wanted to donate?

What if they thought my project was not worthy?

I don't deal with rejection very well. 

Does anyone?

I don't think so.

So, I was chicken.

Bach Bach (yes, I'm making chicken sounds at myself because I can make fun of myself with the best of them!)  ;O)
But, then one of my colleagues got an iPad mini through Donors Choose.  Then, she got an iPad.  

Then, I was jealous.

Not really.  More so curious.

So I talked to her about it.  

And I got motivated to try it.

This is what sold me:

Did you know that Donors Choose matches donations dollar for dollar for the first 7 days.  Dollar for dollar.  There's a code.  It's INSPIRE.  If you didn't know about, it's very useful.

I've been dying to get some technology in our classroom.  Our county, for some reason, is way behind on this.  They are creating their very own tablet for our schools.  The guy in charge is anti-Apple.  

I'm not going to tell you how I feel about THAT.  Since I have an iPhone 5 that I absolutely love, I just can't speak of this.

So, I heard that this new tablet was built just for our system.  And so apps made for it would be very limited.  I was a little mad sad about this. 

BUT, if a tablet is bought and brought into the school, they are all for it.  It just can't be bought with school or county funds (as if I get enough funds for a tablet anyway).

So, here is what I did.

(I was very nervous about it.  But, my colleague had done it so I could at least try, right?)

I shared about Donors Choose to the parents of my students at our Curriculum Night- which is when they learn all about 4th grade.  I explained how I wanted to add some technology so we could use it during workshop time and for differentiation.  I talked about the teacher at my school who had done this and had gotten two tablets.

They were pretty open to it, even though a few thought I should try for a Galaxy instead.  But I don't know how to use those and I'd already gotten my project for the iPad Mini accepted.  So, it was too late for that.

I told them about the dollar for dollar matching and then they were motivated, too.

Our school is in a pretty nice area, but it is changing quickly.  So, I knew there would be a few parents who would like to donate and would be able to while many couldn't.  My thing was, it doesn't hurt to try, plus I'd have to tell them about it eventually anyway if it was funded, right?

And, some of them work for businesses and so I thought they could share that with their business if they were interested in getting involved in the community.

So, anyway, basically I had some parents that donated and used the code to have their dollars matched.  This helped a lot!  In the end, I paid for about half of the iPad Mini before the 7 days were up so I could get the dollars matched.  So, it was really half of half.  If that makes any sense?

I knew this could possibly happen so I had saved some money from our TpT store payout to put towards it.  So, technically, those of you who have bought anything from our TpT store, you helped fund this iPad Mini, too!  I'm sooooooooo grateful for your support!  If we didn't have that store, there's no way I could have gotten this!!  So, a huge THANK YOU to you!!

I know this is not an ideal situation for most, and I surely can not try to fund another one again like this, but since it was my plan B (to have to try to fund it myself), I was ready for it.  Although I will say that you can only get $100 matched from a donation.  Once you've donated that $100 and they've matched it, then they won't match any of the donations from you anymore from that email address.  So, my husband donated some too so I could get it fully funded.  Wasn't that nice?  ;O)

So, my project has been fully funded, and my iPad Mini is on it's way as we speak. 

I'm super excited!!

I also had a parent tell me that night that they had a first generation iPad that they don't use and she'd be glad for us to use it in class.  I know it can't do some of the fancy stuff the new iPads do, but I'll find a use for it, you can be sure!!

So, if you have any apps or advice for me, I'm glad to hear it! Then I can try it out and link up for another Tried it Tuesday!!  

So, if you are thinking of trying Donors Choose, don't forget about INSPIRE.  It's handy!

Have a great week!

PS- A kindergarten teacher also did the same thing that I did at Curriculum Night and she got hers fully funded except for $50 that she put in herself.  So, it's worth a try maybe?

{Thank you for the kind words that were left for me yesterday!  It is definitely an honor to be our school's Teacher of the Year...but I will admit that I have a hard time with recognition like that.  Only because I know everyone works so hard every day so it makes me a little uncomfortable.  But, I don't take it lightly and it really is an honor!!  And thank you Stacia for the sweet post!}

Monday, August 26, 2013

Teacher of the Year! It's Amanda! Yay!

Happy Monday, Friends!

I am SOOOOOOO EXCITED to share with you some AWESOME news that we found out today!

My best friend and collaboration cutie partner, Amanda, was voted Teacher of the Year for our School!

I am so proud of her! I know that she didn't really want me to brag on her, but I can't help it. She is an INCREDIBLE teacher and so deserves this!  :)

Congratulations, Amanda! I love you and am so happy for you! Thank you for all you do to support teachers and students!  Big Hug!

-Stacia  :)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

If You Lived with the Hopi~ Native American Lesson Ideas with Nonfiction {Must Read Mentor Text}

Hey there!!

I'm excited to share a great nonfiction book with you today that goes with our unit about Native Americans.

One of the things I LOVE about 4th grade is our social studies curriculum!  When we taught 3rd, the social studies curriculum made no sense and did not go together at ALL.  4th grade is waaaaaaaaay better and waaaaaaaay more fun!  We start learning about the Native Americans, go through explorers, colonization, the American Revolution, Westward Expansion, and end with Women's Rights.  It's a TON to get into one year (like 400 years of history!) but it's very interesting, which excites me!

Anywho, on with my book for this week!!  My goal was to share more nonfiction, so that's what I'm gonna do today!!  ;O)

There is a series of books like this book (...If You Lived with the Hopi).  There are books like If You were at the First Thanksgiving, If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon, etc.  It's a great series that gives information in a fun way to children so they can relate.
Here is what the table of contents looks like for If You Lived with the Hopi:

Look at all of this!!  And this is a picture book!  This book is oozing with tons of great information about the Hopi!  It's so exciting!!!!

Ok, I will calm down and explain how I am going to use this book.  But just wait until you see all of the great information in here!!

When we teach about the Native Americans, we are focusing on how their environment impacts their every day life.  How did they adapt to their environment?  How does this affect their shelter, their food, and their clothing?

All of these questions can be answered right here from this book!

I am planning on reading pieces of this book during Social Studies.  Then, I am going to dig deeper in Language Arts.  I have students that leave my room for Language Arts (they go to advanced Language Arts), so that is why I will also read it during Social Studies because I still want them exposed to this excellent book!

The book starts off talking about the Hopi's shelter.

Here is the first page and it has some great information.  We also teach about the Native Americans from the Plains.  This is a great place to compare and contrast.  It also explains about their apartments and how they are built- a great place to compare and contrast apartments where we live.  It's also a great place for them to compare how the Hopi enter their home and what they use the rooms for.  (How many ways can we compare and contrast?  Oh, there's just tons!!)  ;O)

On these pages, it discusses who lived together.  Every family situation is different, so this would be a great place for students to be able to individually compare and contrast who lives in their home versus who lives in a Hopi home.

These two pages are great for showing how the Hopi adapt to changes and how they use resources from their environment in their every day lives.  I love the illustrations because they can help students visualize exactly how they use their resources around them.  This would be great for cause and effect.

Another section of the book talks about names.  At the beginning of the year we do "The Story About My Name" for our writer's notebooks and I thought this would be a great tie in to that.

They can, again, compare and contrast how they got their name and why and with the Hopi culture of clans and their names.

The book goes on with more details about their clothing and what they plant and why.  It's just a great book that explicitly explains everything they need to know about how the Hopi use their environment to their advantage.  I think it's fascinating!!  :O)

Here is a freebie that I made for this where students can compare themselves with a Native American tribe.  The second page has the right column blank.  I love to compare and contrast with an H instead of a Venn Diagram...maybe because I'm not very good at drawing ovals?  ;O)

Also, we have several graphic organizers that we use to go along with our Native American unit in our TpT store if you'd like more organizers (you know we love graphic organizers!!!).  They are perfect for interactive notebooks!
Well, I hope you find this book as exciting as I do!  I think this is a great book for all grade levels!!  I plan to do much of this whole group, but I'm also contemplating using it for some close reading in my small guided groups.  I think it also lends itself for come great text dependent questions- such as how does the Hopi's environment affect their every day lives?  I only have one of the book, though, and I can project it on the screen if we do it whole group...decisions decisions...I'll let you know how it goes!!  :O)

Have a great Sunday!

Please Link Up!

Next week's linky- Language Arts

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Five for Friday- Water cycle, Geography, and place value

Yep, I know it's Saturday...but I still really wanted to link up...

Hey there!  You know it's the beginning of the year when you feel like you don't even have time to breathe, let alone blog, right?  ;O) 

Is anyone else that's back to school feeling like this?

Millions of papers to fill out, assessments galore?  Ugh.  We are finally starting to get a "normal" schedule!!

So, here is what we have been up to this week!!  I'm thankful this linky with Kacey from Doodle Bugs Teaching allows us to talk about random things that we did!

We have been working on states of matter and the water cycle in science.  Here are some photos from our interactive notebooks.  For the flippables I used Erin's (from I'm Lovin Lit's) interactive notebook templates (which rock by the way!).

We have been working on geography in social studies.  We got out the big maps that can be used with expo markers and did a search for the landforms and bodies of water that we had been learning about.

We also used a game from Lynda Kamp's awesome geography pack and the kids had a lot of fun with it!

We made acrostic poems in LA for water and geography terms.  Here was my example...I of course forgot to take pictures of student examples...this definitely caused them to think!

 For a culminating project, we made United States cookie cakes (a cute idea from a teacher that I work with)!  The students had specific landforms and bodies of water that they needed to locate in the U.S.  These were places that they will be learning about throughout the year so we do this unit first so that they have an idea where everything is as we start learning the content.

 Using pre-made dough, you just cook the dough as one big long cookie.  Then, we had a cut out in the shape of the U.S. and you put that on top of the cooked cookie and cut around it to get the shape.  :O)

Here is the final product!
It's completely edible!  Talk about a sugar high!!

I am also linking this up with my sweet friend Joanne for her linky because I feel like cookie cake was pretty motivating!!  They knew they had to study to be able to put all of the items in the right place for the cookie cake and they all really did a great job!  Isn't food (especially cookies and candy) motivating for all of us?  ;O)

In math, we have been working on place value (up to the millions).  Stacia and I have worked really hard trying to make our math real-world applicable.  That being said, how often do we really use numbers to the millions??  As a teacher, unfortunately, I do not make millions of dollars so unless I win the lottery, I'll never see or write those numbers (on a check) in my lifetime.  ;O)

Anyway, we came up with the idea to use a theme of the movies for this nine week period in our math and it has kept the kids engaged!  Two great movies came out this summer that most of the kids have seen and so we have been using numbers from that in our discussion of place value!  We have been pasting this into our interactive math notebooks!  It's been fun!

These show how we used numbers from daily and weekly profits for both movies to teach standard and expanded form as well compare numbers and talk about the value of the digit.  :O)

 Phew!  No wonder I'm tried after this week!  We had a ton going on!  ;O)  But that's how I like it!!  :O)

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Drop Around the World- A Science Mentor Text for Teaching the Water Cycle

Happy Sunday to everyone!

This week I am going to share a Science text that is awesome to use in Language Arts as well. This is a book that truly can be used across the curriculum- and because time is always precious, this is exactly what I need! :)

A Drop Around the Word by Barbara Shaw McKinney is a phenomenal book! 

From "This book is a year-after-year favorite with teachers. It engagingly leads readers around the world following a drop of water--whether as steam or snow, inside a plant or animal, or underground--teaching the wonders and importance of the water cycle."
When I first saw this book, I knew I had to have it. I love teaching the water cycle, and I have some other great books about the water cycle, but none that it explain it as a journey that one single drop takes. That is one of the things that makes this book a must-read! The students learn about the water cycle by going on adventure with a little drop of water around the world. It really makes the "cycle" part of the water cycle come to life. They understand what a cycle is and how water changes. This book also does an awesome job showing the states of matter and how water changes based on temperature.

The illustrations are absolutely stunning as well!!!

I love using this book in Language Arts too because of the rich vocabulary and vivid language the author uses. While reading the book, I give the students a vocabulary chart. When we come to a new word, we discuss it together and try to use context clues to figure out the meaning. Then, we record it on our chart. Finally, we draw a picture to help us remember the word. Click below to download the Vocabulary Chart Freebie.  :)

The figurative language in this book is also awesome! Check out the examples below.

This book is written as a poem with a couple of stanzas in each poem. A couple of weeks ago, I talked about close reading (click HERE to see that post). This is a GREAT book for close reading. Give students one page of text and then really analyze it together. Look at the content and the vocabulary but also the author's craft. It definitely lends itself to thinking deeply. 

I hope that this book can be useful for you and your students!
Have a great weekend, Stacia  :)

I can't wait to see what texts y'all link up!

Please Link Up!

Next week's linky- Social Studies

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Morning Meeting- Spark Student Motivation

I'm sure we have all had this happen.

You are in the middle of a great lesson and you ask a question that requires deep thinking and understanding of the topic and all of these hands go up to answer the question, including that student who never raises their hand.

So you are thinking, yay!  They have it!!  So you call on him or her and wait excitedly for the answer...

And here it is:

"Last night, when I was going to bed, we found this huge spider on my pillow, so I got my shoe and squished it but then there were spider guts all over my pillow.  It was disgusting."



What does this have to do with why the Revolutionary War was started????

Um, it has nothing to do with that.  It's just a personal story.

Has it ever happened to you?

Well, here is my solution.  Morning Meeting.

This particular way to do morning meeting was not my original idea.  I observed in a classroom a couple of years ago and when I walked in, they were having their morning meeting.  I adored it, so I tried it.  And, it works.

I call it "Y'all know what?"

Here's how it works:

When my students arrive in the morning, they have morning work at their seat.  I usually use morning work as a grade because we are so busy during the day, I rarely have them sit and do a daily grade because I like to teach teach teach!

So, they come in between 7:45 and about 8:10.  They complete their morning work- usually just a quick worksheet.  Then, they get their book and come to my carpet area and start our circle (well, it's really an oval, but you know what I mean).
This is part of the front of my room.  There is more floor space to the left.  This is one of the reasons I set my room up like all of them can get on the floor...which can be challenging at times with 28+ fourth graders.

We having morning announcements on our news show at 8:15.  Then, we have ten minutes before we start math- the perfect time for morning meeting!!

So, once the announcements are over, I choose someone who would like to start the meeting.

This is their opportunity to share anything they want.  Anything.  And, seriously, anything can come out of their mouths...

So, it goes like this (each student goes through this when they start their short story...)

Bob says, "Y'all know what?"

Class says, "What Bob?"

Bob says, "We've been begging my mom for a dog and she says if me and my brother get good grades this nine weeks, we can get a dog!"

Now, I try to keep discussion about this to a minimum because I want every student to get the opportunity to share, but I may comment on the statement and say, "Wow, that's so awesome!  Do you know what kind of dog you might get?"  Bob can answer and then we move on to the next student.

Susie says, "Y'all know what?"

Class says. "What Susie?"

Susie says, "Saturday I'm going to Six Flags."

On to the next student in the circle.  And so on.  It gets a little hard keeping them from discussion about each moment shared, but I try to keep it moving.  They get used to it, though.  We just keep going around the circle.

If a student doesn't have anything they want to share, they just say pass.  But, usually, they hear something someone else says, and they think of something.  I always end it by saying, "Is there anyone that hasn't shared?"

Sometimes some of the students are still working, but they can still hear what is being said, and they can still share.

It just becomes part of the morning routine.  Kids are finishing work, turning it in, grabbing a book and sitting on the carpet, quietly waiting to begin morning meeting.  Then we start the meeting and people are adding themselves to the circle and listening.

I, of course, explain and model how to listen intently and be respectful when people are sharing.  They do pretty good with it.  It only gets a little hairy when someone shares something that excites everyone and then I just have to take control and try to move on.  But, mostly, they can run it themselves.

While they are sitting on the carpet doing this, I am going around checking their agendas and homework, but still listening and responding.

Ten minutes is usually enough time.  At 8:25 I have students that have to leave to go to math pull out, so we have to try to get it in.  But, it's totally doable.

I wanted to link up with our sweet friend Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her:

It seems this is very motivating.  I knew it was fun, but it was confirmed for me yesterday.  

First off, one of my students from last year dropped in for a hug on her way to her class.  I told her I missed her and she said, "I miss you too.  And, I really miss getting to do morning meeting every morning."

This was totally not what I thought she would say, but it made me happy!

Then, yesterday after school, one of the teachers I work with has her son in my class.  She must have asked him what was something he liked about fourth grade and he said, "You know how when you have something you want to share, but it's not about school so you aren't supposed to share it?  Well, I like that we get to share things about ourselves that has nothing to do with school in the mornings before we get started."

Awww.  How cute!  I was so glad she shared that with me!

Now, obviously this is a southern-fried meeting (saying y'all and everything) but I'm sure if you wanted to try something similar, you could make it your own.  I like that they have to say "Y'all know what?" and the other students have to answer by saying what and the person's name- I think this makes them pay attention.

Last year, my students ran with it from day one and never looked back.  This year, it's a slower start.  Some of them don't want to share.  BUT, it's gotten better every day and they are getting used to it, so I think very soon they will all want to share.  :O)

This year, Stacia is even doing it!  I think we both like how it allows them to share something, but also promotes community. That was one of the big reasons I tried it two years ago.  I had so many kids getting pulled out at all times that I rarely had my whole class together.  I felt like I wasn't getting to know my students that were pulled out for the majority of the day, and their classmates weren't getting to know them either.  I just really wanted them to all know each other and build that bond.  I really think it works!

Do you do a morning meeting?  What is it like?  And if you don't, maybe you'll consider trying it this's really fun!!!

Have a great weekend!

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