Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Surprise! A Great Resource About Great Books

Good morning!  I'm feeling extra bloggy this morning and have been a posting maniac, but I wanted to share with you a terrific resource for finding amazing books written by...get eleven-year-old boy!

Erik is "spot on" in his reviews of great books.  Another plus?  Most of my reluctant readers (including my own eleven-year-old) are boys.  So...I can steer my reluctant readers towards Erik's blog and get some really great ideas, including some great reads that aren't necessarily "mainstream" straight from a kid's get it.  How great is that?

Another wonderful thing about this blog?  Erik's parents have plenty of control on his blog life and make no bones about it.  They let you know throughout this blog who is "large and in charge!"  So safety is a must and his parents are modeling the type of online parent involvement that we'd all like to see.

Mosey on over to check out Erik's'll be glad you did!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Flash To Pass

I'm always looking for ways to shake things up a bit when I have students complete an "exit slip" for math.

My fourth graders are still working at "shoring up" their basic math facts, especially multiplication and division, so I like to find ways for students to showcase these skills quickly and collaboratively.

Enter the Flash To Pass App.  It's FREE at the App Store and is highly engaging for those intermediate-level students (Grades 3-6).

I can stand at the door while my students "exit" by entering the correct answer on my iPad.  There are quite a few settings on this app that allow the user to increase or decrease the level of difficulty or change the operation.  Flash To Pass is also a terrific option for a stand-alone math station.

Flash to Pass allows the user to go beyond the allotted time and gives great feedback.

Who can say no to FREE and GREAT APP?  It's the deal of the day!  


Mentor Text: 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore

Writer's Workshop has taken over my school and my district and I'M LOVIN' IT!  This soooo fits the way I teach and it is just thrilling to be able to use great mentor texts to model the best in writing.

I've decided that I'm going to set the bar high for myself and try to get in ONE BLOG PER WEEK on great mentor texts.  (Ok...that's a pretty high bar and I'm pretty out-of-shape when it comes to blogging...I'll admit I'm a slacker!  But I'll give this a go and see where this goal leads me!)

So...enough pontificating...I'm ready to share!

17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter is one of my all-time favorite books for so many reasons.  What's not to love about this book?  Great illustrations combined with some great retro mixed-media and an extremely imaginative main character make this book a natural read aloud.  (I know, I aren't supposed to read a mentor text in its' entirety during a mini-lesson...but your students will be so intrigued that you'll need to share the whole darned thing!'s that engaging!)

Here are a few ideas I have for using this book for Writer's Workshop:

  • Idea generating:  Every house and school has rules.  Heck...if I blow up a balloon at home and start batting it around with my son, we have a well-developed list of rules in a matter of seconds! I have my students write a list of things they aren't allowed to do.  My favorite?  "I'm not allowed to pee on my sister's toothbrush anymore."  TMI  :)
  • Capitalization:  The authors take a little bit of liberty with capitalization.  My kids catch these "errors" quickly and a quick and necessary mini-lesson on mechanics is born!
  • Show, don't tell:  "I had an idea to give my brother the gift of cauliflower."  "I'm not allowed to give the gift of cauliflower anymore."  The pictures in this book are worth a thousand words.  How can we "paint" a picture using words and not drawings or graphics?  

Do you use 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore with your students?  If so, how do you use this book with your students?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Update for April 9, 2013:  I went back to this mentor text and linked it up with the gals over at Collaboration Cuties...check out some other great mentor texts that others have shared!

Make a wonderful week!


Monday, February 4, 2013

Monday Made It...February Edition!

I finally was able to link up with Tara over at 4th Grade's been a few months since I have had my %$@! together enough to participate in this worthy and worthwhile endeavor.  I have to say, when I don't do this, I kinda miss it!

Working with my crew on the beginnings of THE DREADED LONG DIVISION UNIT!  I love teaching this to my students...and really want to holla when those lightbulbs finally go on and they truly GET IT!  (This is one of my favorite parts of teaching...and I feel sorta guilty that I get to experience this...If other folks knew about this magic and how great it feels to be a part of it, wouldn't everyone want to be a teacher?)

My wonderful friend and colleague, "The Wonderful Linda," and I are looking to change things up a bit and do more with mini lessons and group work/stations during this unit.  I have quite a few stations put together, but was looking to create something that allows for some flexibility while my students put their new division skills into practice.

I was also feeling a bit LOVEY DOVEY, and wanted to put a Valentine/Heart motif to the whole center activity...anywho...this leads me to the introduction of my newest center:  Division Love Triangles!  ( great is this?)  

I need to give a shout out to Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics.  This really began as her idea...but she did this with letters as a word work station for her "Fourthies."  I decided to change things up by taking Tara's idea and moving it over towards the math side with division as the focus.

I love it, and I hope my kiddos will too as they are my guinea pigs this week!

The specifics:
  • Got my little heart tub, ribbon and small plastic hearts at Hobby Lobby. 
  • If you can't find these babies at Hobby Lobby because there is St. Patty's stuff crowdin' the aisle, then make your own little hearts out of construction paper and label them with your numbers instead.  There's always a way to improvise any center, right?
  • You could use a white paint pen to label these hearts.  I went to my scrapbookin' stash and found my white "Souffle" pen.  (Sakura)  It dries puffy and dark and was perfect for this project.
  • I labelled each heart with a number:  1 through 9.  I also put 5 zeroes into the mix...just enough to spice stuff up but not enough to make things too easy for my kiddos!
  • In addition to the cute heart-filled tub, I have created a handout that includes directions.  I am going to back the directions page up with red construction paper and laminate it so that it can go with the center.  The instructions also include a sample so that students can refer to it while working through the center.
  • The recording pages can either be laminated or put into a clear plastic sleeve and written on with Vis-a-Vis markers or they can be run off as a 2-sided copy if you want your students to hand these in.  Your call...
I'm including the link to the instructions and recording pages FREE!!!  (Gosh, I love the free stuff, don't you?)  All I ask is that you include the copyright on the bottom of the page to give me credit for my Intellectual Property.  

Yodel to let me know how you used these pages or this learning center!

Don't forget...Sharing is Caring!  Do pass this on to a beloved colleague, a new teacher who could use an idea or two or even someone who has been teaching forever...New ideas are always welcome and...who in the heck couldn't use some freshening in the month of February?

The next part isn't so much a "Made It" as a "Finished It."  

My Fourth/Fifth Grade Team and I have been working with our kids on a Reader's Workshop the last two years.  If you haven't read Leslie Blauman's book, you really should.  Do put it on your next Book Study'll be glad you did!

Anywho...the Reader's Workshop Model revolves around a student-created piece called a "Book Lovers Book."  Our kiddos record the books they read in their BLBs and are always looking for someone to recommend a book to.  Because of the way we "book talk" in our classrooms, they are really "in tune" with their classmates and what they are reading, so they are constantly finishing books and leaving the books on another student's desk with a little note attached, letting the recipient know how great the book is and why they are recommending it to them.

I try to model this often, and I can't wait to go to school tomorrow and share the book I just finished:  The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate.  It's a really quick read and is beautiful in it's elegance and simplicity.  The message is clear and stunning...and it is truly deserving of its' most recent honor:  The Newbery Award!

Now...I just have to figure out who's desk to leave it on!  This should be fun!

Have a wonderful week and thanks for allowing me to join in on all the fun!