Saturday, April 30, 2011

First Grade is Fantabulous!: O-MI-GOODNESS It's GIVE-AWAY Time!

Tanya at First Grade is Fantabulous! is having a giveaway for reaching 100 followers! Head on over to her fabulous blog and find out how you can enter!

First Grade is Fantabulous!: O-MI-GOODNESS It's GIVE-AWAY Time!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Edmodo: "Facebook for Schools"

Have you heard of Edmodo?  I recently learned about it in my latest Scholastic Instructor magazine.  I strongly believe in teaching students in the ways that they learn.  It is no secret that today's students are very technologically-advanced.  I do my best to integrate technology in the classroom:  Smart Boards, Study Island, Tumble Books, etc.  I decided to test out Edmodo, on a small scale first, with one literature circle group of average readers, to see how it would work out.   

I created an account on Edmodo, then created accounts for the members of the group.  When telling my students about the website, I could see the excitement on their faces as I described it as "Facebook for Schools."  My students all love Facebook, even though they are technically not even old enough to use it.  I did send home a letter to get parent permission, since it did involve a social networking site.  I stressed that I would be closely monitoring the activity.  I was even able to sign up to get text messages whenever anyone posted to it.  This is an extremely useful feature when you are dealing with an entire class using the site.  (My first thoughts go to cyber-bullying, and the ways to prevent it.)  

Once I got permission, my students got to work posting.  I was very pleased with their levels of questioning and critical thinking skills.  So pleased, in fact, I had to run next door to show our SLC!  One student posted "Why is Judd so grumpy?"  A response was, "I think he is grumpy because he lives by himself and does not have company."  Students were also making predictions, "Do you think Marty will achieve his dream of becoming a vet?"  

These are just a few examples of the awesome "conversations" my students were having with each other on this wonderful site.  Does it replace actual conversation about the book?  No.  Does it encourage learning in ways students learn best?  Absolutely!  

Mrs. Patton's Patch: 400 Followers and a Giveaway!

Mrs. Patton is having a giveaway! Head on over to her awesome blog to check it out!

Mrs. Patton's Patch: 400 Followers and a Giveaway!: "Y'all are amazing! I never imagined I would have 400 followers, especially after less than 4 months! Wow! Thanks for all the sweet comments ..."

Monday, April 25, 2011

One thing I've Learned...

One thing I have learned since starting this blog is I HAVE GOT to take more pictures!  I am a fairly new mom, so I take plenty of pictures of my beautiful little boy, but I don't take any of the fabulous projects we do at school.  This occurred to me when posting about the volunteer appreciation event I hosted last year.  A perfect supplement to that blog post would have been a picture of those awesome (if I do say so myself!) favors.  

So if any of you (my three followers!) notice I don't take pictures of something that you would like to me out on it!  Please.  

Volunteer Appreciation

I was somehow put in charge of the Volunteer Breakfast at my school last year.  I had never done anything like this before, and was only given a couple of weeks to prepare invites, decorations, and gifts.  The teachers volunteered to bring in breakfast items, but everything else was purchased out of my pocket.  I wanted to make it as nice, and as inexpensive, as possible!  

I created the invitations on my computer.  Had I given it more thought, and had more time, I would have asked for student volunteers to create cards.  

For the gifts, I bought plain Hershey bars and created a new "wrapper" for them.  I've seen this done for different occasions; birth announcements, wedding favors, etc.  I had the hardest time finding the dimensions to make them the appropriate size, however.  It took A LOT of trial and error (and paper!) until I finally got it right.  You can download the template here.  The poem was anonymous, and I found it on the web.  I had some students help me wrap the candy bars during recess time and we even placed a few stickers on them to dress them up a bit.  

The finished product turned out really cute, and our breakfast was a success!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Earth Day Celebration

Because we are on Spring Break, we did not have a chance to celebrate Earth Day at school.  Instead, I chose to have a celebration with my 21 month old son.  

He wore his special Earth Day shirt.  
If you can't see it, it says "Respect Your Mother" and the "O" is a picture of the planet Earth.  I bought it from Crazy 8.  

We also watched Wall-E.  This is a Disney/Pixar movie that teaches a great lesson about taking care of the Earth.  

Lastly, at bedtime, we read The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.  This is my son's favorite book, and we read it every night, but it offers another great message about taking care of our planet.  

This is also a book I read with my fourth graders at different times throughout the year.  I use it to teach setting in Reading and human/environment interaction in Social Studies. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Discipline Anyone?

Since I was off work today and didn't have to deal with any discipline problems, I thought I would blog about it!  Twisted?  Maybe.  

I teach two sections of Reading, Language Arts, and Social Studies.  My co-teacher teaches two sections of Spelling, Math, and Science.  No matter what grade I am teaching, my students have always switched classes with another teacher.  We decided two years ago that we needed a universal discipline plan to keep things consistent.  We came up with a checklist.  For misbehaviors, students receive checkmarks in different categories, depending on the infraction.  

You can see a copy of our discipline plan here.

As you can see at the bottom is our list of consequences.  One checkmark (or 'check' as we call it) serves as a warning.  Normally, by the time the child has received the check, they have already had several verbal warnings, though.  For most students, the one check is enough to make them to choose to modify their behavior.  As the number of checks increase, so do the consequences.  You will also see a section for notes at the bottom.  This is especially useful when someone gives a check for inappropriate behavior or disrespect.  It also makes for a more detailed office or quiet room referral, if needed.  

Students receive rewards related to the checklist as well.  At the end of each day when I'm stamping agenda books, I give everyone who did not receive a check gets a one point sticker.  At the end of the week, any student receiving zero checks for the week gets a five point sticker.  Stickers can be used to "buy" rewards.  I am very much a believer in rewarding positive behavior.  How many of us were one of those kids who always did what was right, and the teacher's attention was always focused on the "bad" kids?  I don't want to be like that.  I appreciate those kids who always do the right thing, and I want to show them that.  I will definitely blog more about my increasing positive behavior efforts later.  

The beauty of using this checklist is that it travels with the class no matter where they go in the school.  Not only does it go with them to the other teacher's room, but it goes with them to Fine Arts, the Library, the Cafeteria if needed, etc.  

Wow.  Writing about discipline is a lot easier than actually dealing with it!  I hope everyone has a great Easter weekend!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Author's Purpose-With an Easter Twist

I posted a couple of days ago about my Author's Purpose lesson.  To reinforce learning, today  my students created a writing piece about Easter eggs.  They were randomly given the task to write either a persuasive, informative, or entertainment piece about Easter eggs.  They did an amazing job!  Some persuasive pieces were why you should dye and/or buy Easter eggs.  One student wrote an informative piece about the health benefits of eating Easter eggs, and two students teamed up to write a very creative story about a child who had the choice to go to an Easter Egg Hunt or a friend's birthday party.  After feeling very conflicted, the child decided to hold an Easter Egg Hunt during the birthday party. 

I was so pleased with their writing efforts, yet disappointed that I didn't leave much time to complete the task.  With Spring Break and Easter looming, we just did not have enough time to dedicate to this assignment.  Next year, I will leave a good two weeks prior to Easter to edit and publish final drafts.  It definitely is a great learning activity to link reading and writing.  And it will make a super-cute Spring bulletin board!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Letters for Success

Our School Literacy Consultant, who is someone I seriously admire, suggested last week that we as a school write letters to our third, fourth, and fifth graders telling them good luck on the Ohio Achievement Assessments.  

Our Spring Break was scheduled at the most inconvenient time this year.  We vote on our schedule a few years in advance.  We don't know the testing window when we vote.  When the two week testing window opens, we will be on Spring Break.  Therefore, our students have to take the OAA the week return from break.  I don't even think inconvenient is the appropriate word for it.  

So, taking our SLC's advice, all the teachers in our school have decided to "divide and conquer" our list of 240 third, fourth, and fifth graders and write letters to mail to them over break.  I hope the letters will put a smile on my students' faces, give them the confidence to do well, and serve as a gentle reminder that they will be welcomed back by this looming test.  

First Grade Best: Time for A Giveaway!

Michelle, at First Grade Best is having a giveaway in celebration of reaching 200 followers! Head on over to her fabulous blog and check it out!

First Grade Best: Time for A Giveaway!: "Here's What You Could Win! A Beautiful, Hand Quilted, 'Very Hungry Caterpillar' Teaching Bag (front side of the bag with a pocket) (ba..."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easy as PIE!

It is crunch time before the OAA and I am doing some review of frequently tested indicators this week.  I decided to do a mini lesson on Author's Purpose.  My favorite way to teach Author's Purpose is to teach the students that it is "Easy as PIE!"  

Get it?

I created a Smart Board lesson, complete with the "Magic Eraser" to reveal answers.  I haven't used this technique much this year and the kids loved it.  I also created a Smart Response assessment.  I'm not sure where I originally got the questions for the assessment, so unfortunately I can't give credit where credit is due.  

In celebration of starting my blog, I am going to share my Smart Board file.  You can download it here.

The Smart Response "clickers," as we call them, have been a hidden treasure in our building for two years.  They were kept in their neat little carrying case in our SLC's office just waiting to be used.  We had never received training on them, and I think a lot of the teachers were afraid to use them.  I finally decided to just wing it one day, and I immediately fell in love.  We have since received training, and I have learned how to use them anonymously just to keep the kids engaged during a lesson.  If I had it my way, I would keep the clickers in my room all the time, but I have to share.  They really are "easy as pie" to use!  

I would love to hear how you use clickers in your classroom!

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Current Obsession

I seem to get fixated on things often. When I find something that I totally L-O-V-E, I become obsessed. It's all I talk about, read about, and web-surf about. This is my current obsession.  Actually, as you'll find out it's been my obsession for the last two years.  That's how much I really love it.  
The Daily 5 and CAFE.

For those of you that have been hiding under a rock the past two years, The Daily Five, and it's accompaniment The CAFE Book, are written by "The Sisters," Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. These two books have completely revolutionized the way I teach reading. I read The Daily Five book two years ago on Spring Break and decided that I MUST implement it in my classroom. Unbeknownst to me, two other teachers in my building read it over the summer and we decided we would create a book club and share ideas. We eventually started reading The CAFE Book, and the three of us implemented the CAFE reading strategies during the second half of last school year. On the urging of our School Literacy Consultant and building Principal, the entire building implemented The Daily Five this year. I was so proud of our building for taking on such a task and following through. We all very strongly believe that The Daily 5 and CAFE will help our students become better readers, writers, and spellers.
The amount of reading and writing that gets done during our Daily 5 time is phenomenal. My students are using words like "schema" and "stamina." They are translating their reading strategies to practice OAA tests and content-area reading. It's amazing.

I strongly encourage you to visit The Sisters website at or pick up the books for some VERY light reading. I'm not being sarcastic. Both books can be read in a weekend, and I promise you, you will quickly become obsessed as I.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hello Blogosphere!

I have been toying with the idea of creating a blog for some time now. I enjoy reading other "teacher blogs" and have finally decided to take the leap. So... Hello Blogosphere!

I don't know what finally made me decide to venture into the blogging world. It could be the fact that I finally watched "The Social Network" last night. Wow.

A little about me. I am a fourth grade teacher. This year. In my five years of teaching, I have taught preschool, fifth grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, and fourth grade. At the beginning of each school year, I have felt like a new teacher all over again. I teach Reading, Writing, and Social Studies to two classes and my co-teacher teaches Math, Spelling, and Science to both classes. Although the weight of teaching Reading in an Ohio Achievement Assessed-grade level is very heavy on me, I truly enjoy finding new and innovative ways to teach it. This is where my love of the Internet comes into play. I have learned so much just surfing the web and reading what other teachers are doing. I hope that I have something to contribute as well.

Happy Reading!