Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Blessings and Cyber Sales!

First, I wanted to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!  I know that I'm blessed to have a job, a family in relatively good health and happiness, a home, and love. It's not something I know we always reflect on, but after spending time with my students having them list things they are thankful for, it puts it into perspective!

This week, we were full of turkey projects!  We created turkeys for skip counting, turkeys to show our thanks, and turkey glyphs!  I told my students that their parents are going to think I'm in love with turkeys!!!  But turkeys are so much fun, and you can do so much with the feathers!  I know I've created two packs of turkey projects - one on skip counting, and the other on place value!

We also did one of my favorite projects - turkey calls!  Years ago, I talked to the Wild Turkey Federation at our State Fair, and came away with a very cool teacher kit!  Since then, I've always done a turkey study and we create turkey calls from plastic cups, twine, and a toothpick.  Very simple, easy, and the kids love it!  Last year I paired it with a powerpoint with photographs of turkeys.

Living where we do, I know we often see wild turkeys crossing the road or in fields.  They like to hang out in my neighborhood since we don't allow hunting!  However, it's nice to add the education for the kids as well!

Last but not least, SALES!

My Teachers Notebook store is on sale for 50% off - every product - until next Wednesday, December 4th.

Teachers Pay Teachers is also sponsoring a "Cyber Sale" on Monday and Tuesday. I'm also offering 20% off my store to make it 28% off!

160 × 200 

I know I'm stocking up on my wishlist items!  I'm sure there will be a linky out there somewhere about what you buy! :)  I'm also hoping to score a Kindle for my daughter for Christmas, so I'm actually going out Thanksgiving Day to Staples at 8pm.  I worked too long in retail to do the "6am" thing on Black Friday, but I think I can handle 8pm.  Wish me luck! :)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Gathering Thoughts On Diversity and SALES!

So, you have those units that you just look at and say "ugh" right?  I mean, there's no way you can cutesy it up or make it interesting or (in this case) understandable for your students, right?

When I taught fourth grade, that was studying the different documents - Statute for Religious Freedom, Declaration of Rights, etc.  I finally came up with this great idea of a "book of secrets", thanks to a friend's inspiration and it became "cool."

In second grade, it's diversity.  I mean, citizenship, it's another unit like that, but it hits home to kids.  I mean, it's the way they're supposed to behave!  Diversity, though, or "2.12" as we know it wants us to teach that the people of Virginia
a) have state and local government officials who are elected by voters
b) have diverse ethnic origins, customs, and traditions, make contributions to their communities, and are united as Americans by common principles.

Yeah, see what I mean?  I know some of my coworkers in the past have translated this to "Christmas Around the World."  While that DOES teach cultures, it doesn't quite meet the standard!

So, last year, I started with some different ideas and have jotted notes here and there about it, pinned ideas from Pinterest, and even did a Google search for inspiration.

Now, I FINALLY have a unit to be excited to teach!  And you know what it's like when YOU are excited - it gets the kiddos excited as well!

I mean, check out the notes page on my curriculum framework:

So, after a few weeks of twerking it, I think it's finally good!  (Not that kind of twerking!).

So, voila!  My new unit on Diversity.  For those VA 2nd grade teachers (and 3rd, who need to review):  "Studying About Diversity:  What Makes Us Different?  What Makes Us the Same?"

It includes:  Detailed lessons, activity sheets, editable Powerpoint, simulations, printable book - I hope you'll be able to use it!  (Click here to take you to TpT or TN to see more!).  Oh - and on TN, I have a 50% off the ENTIRE store from Wednesday November 27 to December 4!  (Psst...and I think TpT will be having a sale soon as well!)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Word Families and Biographies

Oh my.

I'm sure I've mentioned before how varied my group is this year with their reading levels.  As a grade level, we switch students around and when they're not with us for the 30 minutes of group time, they are either at Title 1, Reading Lab, or (for the higher readers) have "independent time."

I LOVE this rotation.  Before, we used to have an assistant in our room for reading and you would rotate in the classroom.  I remember being worried at first without my assistant being in the room (they are working in lab and title 1)....oh, lil' naive me!

BECAUSE we rotate out, there are times in your room when it is just YOU and your GROUP.  As in, no monitoring behavior because lil' Johnny can't get his work done, or Suzie is talking too loud....

I LOVE the fact that at times, there is no one else in the room but my group.  Last year, I didn't have ANY groups with independent time and the fact that I could focus on them and only them made a HUGE difference.  Trust me, the data shows that this WORKS.  Our lower readers, having that intense 1 hour 30 minutes of reading intervention/silent group time shows in their progress of 1-2 levels (or more) during the school year!  I will never want to go back to the way things were!

I hope your school does something similar.  It's amazing how much more you can get done without having to worry about splitting your attention.  Of course, why am I telling you this?  You're teachers!

Well, back to this year and my original story. :)  I do have a diverse group this year and while I enjoy teaching my lower ones, I requested 1 higher group this year.  So, right now my groups are PrePrimer/Readiness, Primer, and 5/6 (as in on a 5th or 6th grade reading level).  Of course my 5/6 group is "independent", so they spend time in the room while I am meeting with other groups.  At times, I DO have to fuss about noise, but with the other groups being that low, and often they are reading aloud (because let's face it - whisper reading isn't really whispering with these levels!), it sometimes doesn't make a difference!

So what do I do with my higher group for the time they are not with me?  I am lucky they are my second group, since it helps split up the time.  For the first 30 minutes, they are doing literacy centers.  Second 30 minutes, they are with me.  Last 30 minutes, they have a reading response and possible other activity and, if they finish early, can go finish the center they are assigned to that day (I learned long ago - assign the centers, don't let them pick!).

Sooo....this means this year has been a LOT of creating sight word activities AND being able to supplement my higher learner's abilities.  While creating and finding cutesy things works well for the lower ones, I often find that for my higher group, it's looking rather stale, boring, and "old."  I'm currently revamping some of my activities I created while teaching 4th grade to make it look more "friendly" and "inviting" (i.e. less boring).  

It's interesting to be creating things at both ends of the spectrum.  I have to admit, though, I've been spending more time on my lower ones (of course).

However, I FINALLY have something to share for my higher readers!

We are currently in our "Nonfiction 9 Weeks" as I call it.  Last year, they had us do 1 semester of fiction and 1 semester of nonfiction (I'm flinching as I'm typing this - it was horrible!).  So, I'm glad they broke it up this year with our pacing guide.  

This week and next week, we're focusing on biographies.  I love doing biographies and finding those obscure ones that the kids fall in love with!  We're also doing our "Famous Americans" unit in History, so it ties in well.

Looking at my file for my older readers, I wasn't too happy with some of the graphic organizers I had for them.  So....if it's "broke".....

And of course, couldn't leave my lower ones out....a new word family activities pack is up!

Be sure to click on the title picture to check them out (the link will take you to TpT)!  I'm trying to be good and have them available in all 3 of my stores (!).....Teachers Pay Teachers, Teacher's Notebook, and Resources 4 Teaching.  Whichever you prefer, go check them out!  Also be sure to download the Word Family Pack's free preview!

AND....since you've stuck with me this far...the biography pack is a flash freebie until Monday AM at TPT!

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Figured the title said it all :)

Wanted to share some things we've been doing this week, as well as upcoming events (including the freebies!).

Last week, we focused on pumpkins.  I LOVE themes!  Unfortunately, half the times I decide on a theme, I have so many ideas in my head/things I find that *POOF* the week is done and I haven't done everything OR I gather everything and somehow, it just doesn't happen :(

So, "Pumpkin Week" turned into 2 days due to testing, scheduling, etc.  No worries.  The kids still had a BLAST and it was great for my kiddos who do not celebrate Halloween! Check out the pics of what's in the hallway.  I was SO proud when we compared/contrasted fiction vs. nonfiction books about pumpkins.  My kiddos determined that to go get factual information, a nonfiction book was best. 

Our "spooky grammar tree" which has noun pumpkins and verb bats.  Soon to be added:  adjective leaves!
 Pumpkin Facts on cutouts
 Pumpkin glyphs from 2 Super Teachers (freebie)
 Pumpkin Facts (as soon as I find out which pack I got this from, I'll edit this post and link it!)
 Pumpkin Diagrams click {here} for this freebie!
 Our population graphs from our Communities:  Past and Present unit
 Pumpkin Can/Have/Are
 So proud of my kiddos comparing books - From Seed to Pumpkin (nonfiction) and Pumpkin Town (fiction)
 A "pulled back" view

Now, on to this week.  I am scrambling to fit in all my ideas for the upcoming events, including election day (which we have OFF...this is only the 2nd time since I've worked in my district.  LOVING IT!).  I created a book I will either try to fit in on Monday or just have to settle to do it Wednesday.

We've already covered our citizenship unit, but my kiddos love taking books home, so I created this one {here}.  I have reading levels in my room from PrePrimer to sixth grade, so the wording is about as easy as I could make it without talking down to my higher readers.  I hope you can use it!

Also, in preparation for next week, I created a Veteran's Day printable book as well.  Find that {here}.  

I hope you can use the ideas and freebies!  Happy November! :) 

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Currently November and MONSTERS!

To start off with.....linking up with Farley for the November Currently!
Most of it is self-explanatory :)  I'm also sure you can relate to needing that maid (my house is so embarrassing, especially since not only have I been busy, but I've been a "drummer's widow" with my husband doing a show lately!).  As for the miracle, well....unfortunately we have several co-workers at my school who are not doing well, and they are SUCH good people!  One was diagnosed with Leukemia last year and isn't expected to make it much longer. :( Another is having seizures and is on medical leave.  I also found out a family member has cancer, and sometimes, ya know, it's just too much!!!!!!

Anyway, enough of that!  Thank goodness for the days so full of teaching and being a mom, I don't stop to think about it (because there IS no time!).

Now, on to happier, if not droolier is my "yummy pin".....
crock pot chicken enchilada soup
Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup!  This is the time of year we always bring out the crockpot, and this looks soooo good!  This is on my "Recipes I'd Like to Attempt" page - since I created that a year ago, I've attempted ONE (sad, I know).  There were lots of gooey, yummy ones (many featuring s'mores, not surprisingly, or some sort of chocolate)...but since we start planning our grocery list/dinners for the week on Saturday and Sunday, this one caught my eye.  PLUS - it's supposed to be healthy.  So, I'm going to try to attempt it this week and I'll let you know how it turns out!

  I also FINALLY was able to cross off my "to do" list my "MonsterMash" sight words game.  I created this for a student who, mom warned me, got extremely nervous and shut down with anything he considered an assessment.  What child doesn't like cute monsters?  Hence, "Monster Mash" was born!  My first version was handwritten, but after messing up several cards, I decided it would be better if I typed it up!  It also comes with a "scoresheet" that is actually my record of the sight words they knew and didn't know.

Well, it's become a bit of a monster itself, with my kids begging to play (don't you love when you can do things like that???) to try to beat their score!

I started it with my PrePrimer group, and it's expanded to my Primer group.  So, I created the 'Mash up to third grade sight words (high hopes here, people!).  Several of my Primers are already ready for their first grade words!  Woo hoo! :) 

To start, everyone gets 3 cards, face down.  They flip and read the cards to themselves, then I go around the group and if they say all 3 words correctly, I collect them and give 3 more cards (if they get any wrong, they keep that, and I hand out new cards to replace the ones they get right).  This continues until the cards are gone.

I then pick a student who is doing a good job to do the "speed round."  They are then flashed the whole deck!  What they read immediately, they keep.  If they misread or don't know, it goes in the "monster pile."  

After the game, while they are counting up the cards they got right, I mark on the scoresheet which ones they missed (I usually circle them), then make a big deal of all the checks by the ones they got right and count a total score.  The goal is to beat the score each time and if they get them all right, I move up to the "next round."  

I color coded my first hand-written sets, so I kept that theme when I typed them, so it's the "brown cards" or "blue cards."  I don't like to assign levels to students like "these are the first grade cards" since some are sensitive about their reading.  I figure, if we can keep their confidence up about reading and keep things positive, it works wonders! :)

To check out more about Monster Mash, click on the picture below. Until Monday morning, it's on sale for $1 in my store, plus the preview includes the PrePrimer version!!