Sunday, May 13, 2012

Google in the Classroom-Writing Collaboration

I got a little behind on the series this week.  I apologize.  I was feeling ambitious when I said I was going to post a week-long series.  I should have written and scheduled them right away.  Have no fear, though, the Google in the Classroom series is back!  Once it ends, though, I would love to continue to post bi-weekly about using Google in the classroom.  Please comment with anything you have done to use Google in the classroom, and I would love to include your ideas, or even have you write a guest post!  

If you've missed my other Google in the Classroom post, don't forget to check them out!  

On Thursday, I went to the Ohio Goes Google Conference.  It was great!  I attended four sessions and heard two keynotes that were very inspiring to continue to use technology in the classroom.  As I wrote in my first post in this series, you don't have to have a mobile lab or even access to 30 computers to use Google in the Classroom.  I have created many student activities using Google Apps and I only have three student computers in my classroom.  

Today, I would like to tell you how to use Google Docs as a collaborative writing assignment with your students.  First, you will want to create a new document in Google Docs.  On the left side of your screen, click Create, then Document.  A document is just like a Word file, except it is saved in the Google Cloud.  
Change the title of your document by clicking the words "Untitled Document."   If you choose, you may type a prompt.  Remember, everything automatically saves!  Next, click share at the top right corner of your screen.  Everything is defaulted to save "private only to me."  You can change this by clicking the share button and changing your settings.  
 Next to where it says "Private," click "change."  You will see this screen:  
Change your settings to "Anyone with the link."  I have to do this because my students do not have Google Accounts.  Then, where it says "Access," it defaults to "can view," change this to "can edit."  This will allow anyone with the link to this document to edit it. After you click save, you will see this screen:  
Highlighted is the link to the document.  You can give your students this link, but I recommend shortening it using  At, paste the Google link, then click customize.  Type whatever you want your customized link to be.  

Now that you are set up, this is my idea for the collaborative writing assignment.  During Daily 5 or center time, assign students in partners or groups.  One student in each pair will start off writing a story.  They type as much as they can during their block of time.  During the next block of time, the other partner reads the story then adds to it.  My students love to make those quick one-sentence stories and build on each other.  This is a technological variation of that!  Once the story is complete, students can revise and edit their writing.  

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Google in the Classroom: Parent Teacher Conference Requests

Today is Day Three of my Google in the Classroom Series

I used Google Forms for my Spring Conference Requests this year.  I will admit, all of my parents sent paper requests, but I wanted the electronic requests to be an option.  I also posted the link to the electronic request on my website.  

To create a Google Form, you will need to sign into your google account, and go to your documents.  Click "Create" then "Form"

You will see something that looks like this:  

Where it says "Untitled Form," give your form a title.  For instance, "Spring Parent Teacher Conferences"  In the box below that, you will want to type any pertinent information your parents need to know.  For instance, how long conferences should last and any additional conference times you are offering.  

Next, you will add a text box for Student Name.  Make this a required question.  
To add new boxes, you click "Add Item" at the top left corner.  Next, add a text box for the parent name or person attending the conference.  You will probably want to make this a required question as well.  The next item that I added was "Choose from List."  Parents can decide which conference date is their preferred date.  Then I added a "Checkbox" item and gave three possible times parents could choose from.  They were able to select as many as they wanted.  Finally, I added a box for parents to offer additional notes.  You can see my form below.  

As with all Google Forms, your responses will be recorded in a spreadsheet located in your Google Documents.  It is timestamped, so you are able to schedule your conferences first-come, first-served.  

Another tip:  when you are given the link to your form, visit or to shorten and customize the link to something your parents will remember and access easily.  

Tomorrow I attend the Ohio Goes Google Conference!  I am so excited to share everything I learn!  I hope that you are finding this series valuable.  As I shared on day one, you do not need a lot of technology to be able to utilize Google in the classroom.  You do not even need a Google account through your school.  Sign up for g-mail and you are afforded all of the benefits of Google Apps!  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Google in the Classroom-Creating Lesson Plans

Today is day two of my Using Google in the Classroom Series

With two years of Marzano training behind us, it was important to my co-teacher and I to continue to have the Marzano strategies at the forefront when creating lesson plans.  My co-teacher created an excellent guided reading lesson plan template that listed the Marzano strategies as checkboxes in addition to a location for the instructional plan.  After using this for a few weeks, I thought it might be much easier to use this as a Google Form.  Yesterday, I showed you how to create a new form.  You can also click here to view the video tutorial.  

When planning each week, I type my guided reading lessons for each group into the form.  Click here to see form I created.  As with all Google Forms, my responses are recorded into a spreadsheet that is saved in my Google Docs.  Click here to view the spreadsheet.  I have blacked out my students' names for privacy purposes.  Each week, I am able to print the spreadsheet and stick it in my lesson planning binder and CAFE notebook.  It is so easy and convenient!  

If you have any questions about using Google in the classroom, or have something specific you would like me to address, please leave me a comment or e-mail me!  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Using Google in the Classroom-A Series


Today I am going to be starting a week-long series on how to use Google in the classroom.  We were very fortunate this year and transitioned over to Google for our e-mail system.  We got all of the perks that came along with Google, including Google Docs, Calendar, etc.  I am my school's technology coordinator and I am a huge advocate for using technology in the classroom. 

 Please understand that my district does not have a lot of money.  We are in the same budget crisis as many public schools.  I am fortunate to have a Smart Board in my classroom and three student computers.  We have a computer lab that is shared by the entire school.  If you don't have access to much technology, know that everything technology-related that I do in my classroom is with the use of these limited resources!  Also, you do not need a Google account through your school.  A general gmail account will work!

The first post in my series is creating a library book checkout system using Google Forms.

Once you are logged into your Google account, you will want to go to documents.  You can access this directly by going to  If you are not already signed in, you will be prompted to sign in.  On the left side of the page, you will click create, then select form.    

On this page, you will create your form.  Mine is titled, "Mrs. Owens Library Book Checkout."  

In the first box "Question Title," I have Name and "Question Type" is Choose from List.  From there, you will enter each student's name.  You will want to click the box, "Make this a required question."  

On all Google Forms, you are only given sample question 1.  You will need to click "Add Item" at the top to add another question.  You will want your next item box to be a text box.  In "Question Title," type Book.  You will also want to make this a required question.  

Next, click "Add Item" again and add another text box.  In "Question Title," type Author. You may or may not want to make this a required question.  It depends on how many interruptions you want if a student cannot find the author's name when they are checking a book out!

If you want to spice up your form, you can select a theme.  There are several to choose from.  I have selected the Books Modern theme for mine.  

Click here to see my sample form.  This is what your students will see.  I have mine saved in my favorites menu on all computers that students have access to.  

Once students submit responses through this form, they will be saved in a spreadsheet in your Google Docs.  All responses are timestamped so you can see when a student checked a book out.  

The only downfall of this checkout system is when books are returned.  I have developed a system that works for me and also helps me to keep my library organized.  I keep a crate near my desk for book returns.  Every other day or so, I go into the spreadsheet and delete the row containing the book entry and put the books back into the library bins.  I learned from experience to keep the book return crate near my desk and not in the library area because students would take books out of the crate to checkout before they were checked back in.  

After typing this, I decided I would try to make a video tutorial.  
I hope that you find this useful!  You can also access this video on You Tube

Prior to using this system, I have never had a book checkout system that worked.  Last year, I eventually gave up and figured if books weren't returned, hopefully they were being loved.  This checkout system works!  The students love to have any excuse to use the computers, even if it's just checking out books!  

Monday, April 30, 2012

Promoting Summer Reading

It's no secret that students lose so much of what they've learned throughout the school year over the summer.  I am always looking for new ways to prevent the "summer slide."  Last night on #titletalk on Twitter, which I posted about yesterday, I got some great ideas that I would like to implement this summer to keep my students moving forward.  

I have Edmodo accounts set up for all of my students.  We use it regularly to talk about books we are reading.  Here are some ideas for using Edmodo to promote summer reading:  

  • One thing I was planning on doing prior to #titletalk chat is to keep all students active on Edmodo and keep in contact about books we are reading.  I think it would be a neat way to stay in touch.  I have a student who moved a few months ago, and she still checks in regularly to tell us how she's doing and books she is reading.  
  • Another idea for using Edmodo is to have an online book club.  We will plan to meet every week and post ideas about a common book we are reading.  I even thought if I had parent permission slips for students to participate in the online book club that I could try to get copies of the particular book donated by a local bookstore.  I was thinking about a fun read, perhaps Babymouse.  It was all the talk on Twitter last night, and I don't think I've ever seen any of my students reading it.
  • As a way to keep students interested in reading, and logged into Edmodo, I also thought it would be fun to take and upload pictures of ourselves reading in our favorite summer reading spot.  

Other fun ideas to try:  

  • Give each student a stamped postcard addressed to you.  Tell them to write you a short note about the book (or books!) they are reading.  

  • Promote your local library!  Choose two dates (or more!) you will be at the library.  Help your students choose books, sign up for the summer reading program, discuss the books you've read.  Encourage them to come-order pizza!

  • I thought this was a great idea, and wish it were feasible at my school. Some people mentioned they keep their school library open a few days a week throughout the summer.  Students are free to come in and check out books.  I work in a neighborhood school, where most students live within walking distance.  I would totally be willing to come in once a week and man the library if I knew it would keep kids reading!  
Please feel free to add to my list!  Leave a comment about what you are doing to promote summer reading.  I would love to feature your ideas in an upcoming post!

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I discovered #titletalk on Twitter after the Literacy Conference I attended in Feburary.  Donalyn Miller was the keynote speaker, and she hosts #titletalk once a month.  It is an awesome twitter-chat about books.  There is usually a main topic, but books ALWAYS end up getting discussed!  Tonight's #titletalk chat was about how to encourage summer reading.  I already had some ideas of my own, but after #title talk I have even more!  I'm so excited to share with you throughout the next few weeks some of the things I'm going to do to encourage summer reading with my students.  

If you're on twitter, make sure to follow @Donalynbooks to find out when next month's #titletalk is!  I hope to chat with you there!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What to do after the test?

OAAs are this week!  I posted Thursday about a review game we will be playing tomorrow.  Tuesday, my students will take the reading test and Thursday they will take the math test.  I need to plan for some activities for after the test.  I cannot remember for the life of me what I've done in the past!  I think, maybe, we were working on some kind of a project, but we're not doing anything like that right now.  I'm looking for some inspiration.  I would love to do some fun activities with my students during the afternoon of the test.  We're also staying in our homerooms on Friday for a fun day.  So, I have to keep them busy and entertained ALL DAY.  Please help!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

OAA Review!

It's crunch time.  

T minus 2 instructional days until the Reading Ohio Achievement Assessment.  At this point, I feel like my co-teachers and I have done all that we can do to prepare the students.  I honestly and truly feel like they are ready.  They've been given the tools.  It's just up to them to perform!  

I sent home a letter to parents yesterday asking them to write a note of encouragement for their child to open on the day of the OAA.  I asked for them to be returned by Friday, that way whoever doesn't bring one back can get one written by me or another teacher in the building.  Would you believe I only received two back so far?!  I'm floored.  I know it's only been a day since I sent it, but still...

It is assembly galore tomorrow.  One in the morning and one in the afternoon.  On Monday we have another assembly for the tested grades.  A pep rally.  I've heard rumors of third graders performing some cheers.  Cute, I know.  Also a little sad, in my opinion.  Seriously, people?  A pep rally for a test?  Pep rallies are supposed to be for rival games and homecomings!  I guess it's kinda like tailgating for a Spring Football Game (AKA open practice).  Which is exactly what I'm doing this Saturday.  Go Bucks!

After an (extremely) failed attempt at trying to learn how to drive my husband's new stick shift Mustang GT, I decided to come home and lock myself in the bedroom to create an OAA Review Jeopardy Smart Board file.  I'm pretty excited about it.  

Here's some screen shots:

I will e-mail the file to the first three people to comment on this post!  Make sure you include your e-mail address! 

Also, don't forget to join my linky party to tell what you're doing in your classroom to celebrate Earth Day!  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Books to Celebrate Earth Day! (& Linky Party!)

As you all know, Earth Day is Sunday, April 22.  I am preparing a pinterest-inspired bulletin board through this week.  It was mostly inspired by this from the Suesstastic blog.  More to come on that later.  This blog post is dedicated to books that I will be sharing with my students this week in celebration of Earth Day.  

The Lorax is my all time favorite Dr. Seuss book.  It is also perfect for discussing plot, theme, setting (and change of setting), point-of-view, etc.  It is also the perfect book to talk about why we should take care of our environment.  
P.S., Yes, I have seen the movie and I loved it!

I pulled The Giving Tree off of my personal at-home bookshelf this year to share with my students.  I don't know why I've never thought to bring it in to school before.  I'm sure everyone is familiar with the story, but it is about a tree who gives and gives and gives to the same boy-turned-man throughout the story, until it can give no more.  The love the tree has for this boy is endless, regardless of the fact that the boy gives nothing in return.  

The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs was introduced to me at the Dublin Literacy Conference by Donalyn Miller, the Book Whisperer herself!  It is an informative book, but also a real-life mystery that your students will enjoy.  The golden frog, a national symbol in Panama are mysteriously dying at a very rapid pace.  Scientists race to discover what is causing the frogs to die and make an attempt to save them before they become extinct.  If nothing else, check this book out for the pictures alone!  

 This book is new to me.  I've had it on my Good Reads list for some time, and I finally decided to check it out for Earth week.  It is amazing!  Can We Save the Tiger tells the story of various animals that are on the brink of extinction.  It's not all depressing though, it also tells about animals that were once on the brink but were brought back and are now thriving.  A lot of connections can be made between Can We Save the Tiger and The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs.  The vanishing frogs were even featured in this book!  This is also a great book for teaching the questioning strategy.  

Who says alphabet books are for preschoolers?  This is middle-grade ABC book combines poetry, informational text, and awesome illustrations to explain the many wonders of our wonderful Earth.  

I thought it would be fun to see what everyone is doing to celebrate Earth Day in their classrooms.  Grab my button and link back here!  Don't forget to connect the actual link of your Earth Day post, not just your blog url.   

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Class Dojo

I posted a few days ago about the troubles I have had with my class this year.  It seems no matter what I do, rewards or consequences, nothing works!  You know it's bad when I asked my students to raise their hands if they have made it to every behavior reward party this year and a student asks, "What's that?"  Funny, but sooo not funny!  Someone named Kriss commented that they have started using a site called Class Dojo.  I had never heard of it, so I decided to look into it a bit.  Please keep in mind I am writing about this completely blind.  I have not used this in the classroom yet, but I am planning to after break.  Basically, you set up your class (or in my case, classes).  Yes, I do get a little break in the afternoon when I get a new crop of students for reading class!  After setting up your classes, you decide what positive and/or negative behaviors you want to track.  The beautiful thing is that it can be displayed on the SmartBoard and you can work it from your iPad or Smart Phone.  If a student is participating or helping out a classmate, or just doing what they are supposed to be doing, you can reward them points.  If a student is being disrespectful or out of their seat, or not doing what they are supposed to be doing, you can take away points.  I think I might start out focusing on the positive.  But with this particular group of students, I might need to eventually do both.  In my grade level, we use a checklist behavior management system, which I posted about here last year.  The great thing about it is that it is portable and can move with my students to other classes.  The downfall is that when students get checkmarks, it is not a visual reminder of their behavior (like the card system).  Displaying Class Dojo on the SmartBoard would serve as a visual reminder to students.  

Picture this:  I'm sitting in small group during Daily 5 time.  I have my iPad next to me.  I notice two students reading the entire Daily 5 choice time.  I can quickly award them points.  A student I'm in group with has an interesting insight, I can award her a point.  Another student decides to get up and start walking around the room.  I take away a point from him.  He sees on the SmartBoard that he has just lost a point.  It quickly corrects his behavior and my group is not interrupted because I am doing everything from my iPad.  Can you picture it?  I can!  I just hope it works the way I'm visualizing!  

I am interested to see if anyone else has used or is currently using Class Dojo in their classrooms?  If so, what do you like or dislike about it and what advice can you give?  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April-Poetry Month

Happy Easter everyone!  

All of my teacher buddies probably know that April is Poetry Month.  In an effort to find new poetry books to share with my students, I just read a book called Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word.  It is so cool!  It is a mix between poetry, word play, and a puzzle.  The words in each poem contain only the letters found in the title.  

Warning to all:  It will make you want to write your own!  

Here's mine:

Get it?  


This would be such a neat poetry writing assignment!

Back in December, I posted about writing Found Poetry.  We did another Found Poetry assignment last week.  I challenged some of my higher students to write their Found Poems displaying character traits for the main character in their chosen books.  One student wrote an AWESOME Found Poem inspired by the book Moses.  I didn't bring the poem home with me, but when I get back from break I will be posting it for you all to read.  It is amazing!  When sharing on Thursday, another student commented, "Wow!  That gave me chills!"  If you haven't tried Found Poetry in your classrooms and would like to, please contact me if you have any questions!  The students really enjoy it and it is a nice change from the common acrostics and cinquains!  

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Much Needed (Spring) Break!

It's official.  

As of 3:00 yesterday, I am on Spring Break.  I celebrated with a Skinny Girl Margarita and a movie.  Well, the movie was Superman:  Brainiac Attacks.  Obviously, the toddler's choice.  Actually, he calls it "How Superman Gets Brainiac."  Cute, right?  Either way, it was celebrating because we don't watch TV on weeknights.  

I have a very rough class this year.  Positive behavior rewards aren't working, behavior charts aren't working, consequences and loss of recess aren't working.  I'm out of ideas.  I'm hoping what will work is a break.  For me and for them.  

When we get back to school, we have one week until the dreaded OAA.  Actually, I'm not dreading it so much this year.  I feel my students are as prepared as they can be.  But those darned test makers like to switch it up on us every year, so you never know.  I didn't focus so much on test prep this year.  We probably really hammered down in small groups over the last month and a half or so.  Prior to that, we were just doing a lot of guided reading and skills groups.  One thing we have been doing for the last five weeks are daily extended response and short answer practice.  My coteachers and I took turns taking short reading passages and creating OAA-style short answer and extended response questions on a variety of skills-cause and effect, sequencing & timelines, predictions, character traits, etc.  I think this has been a very valuable practice.  My students always have a very difficult time answering these types of questions and those are the ones worth the most points!  It is not uncommon to have a student get all of his/her multiple choice questions correct and miss ER/SA questions, which cause them to not pass a practice test.  We have created these ourselves because I have yet to find a reproducible that features these types of questions.  I would love to be in contact with a publisher to fill this missing niche!  I just have no idea how to even get started.  Any ideas?  

I hope everyone has a great Easter!  I'm super-excited for my Pinterest-inspired Easter Baskets this year!  Stay-tuned for an upcoming book recommendation post.  I've been very busy reading!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Book Reviews

BookSpeak!: Poems About BooksBookSpeak!: Poems About Books by Laura Purdie Salas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book that gives books the voice! Books beg readers to open them, characters asking to be liberated, what it feels like to have a reader fall asleep on you, and a book's biggest fear: the feeling of wet! These poems can be used throughout the year to teach voice, point of view, metaphor, story elements, etc.

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's ParadeBalloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Interesting story about the creator and evolution of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The illustrations are amazing. This book is definitely getting added to my personal library!

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Awesome Literacy Conference!

On Saturday, I attended the Dublin Literacy Conference (#dublit12 on Twitter if you want to read the feeds).  It was AMAZING!  I went once, five years ago, when I was a first year teacher.  I didn't really know what it was all about and I have to say I was not impressed then.  I had heard all these great things about it, but nothing really stuck with me that year.  Maybe it was just an off-year.  When I heard that Donalyn Miller (for those teachers in a hole-I'm talking about The Book Whisperer here!) was the keynote speaker this year, I knew I HAD to go.  I got my registration in early and made sure to sign up for the last session of the day that she was holding called Bring on the Books.  I was super excited!  And it was everything-I mean EVERYTHING it was cracked up to be!  Check out my GoodReads shelf for suggestions I got from Donalyn herself.  When I got home Friday night, I realized I had left my copy of The Book Whisperer at school, so I dragged my behind back in there at 8 pm just so I could have it autographed!  One of the first thing Donalyn said in her keynote was regarding her students reading without the use of AR.  I loved this, and made sure to tell her that I was thrilled my school got rid of AR this year and my students are still reading-actually moreso than they have in the past.  She signed my book:  "Celebrate Reading Freedom!"  How awesome is that?!  

The afternoon keynote was Sharon Draper.  She was just as amazing!  Sorry, I just don't have any other words!  I was not really familiar with Sharon Draper.  I knew she wrote a lot of books with multi-cultural protagonists.  I also knew she wrote a lot for high school kids.  She was actually a very funny and interesting speaker.  She is also a former teacher.  She wrote her first trilogy while she was still teaching!

The morning opened with a reading and song from Eric Litwin and James Dean, the author and creator of Pete the Cat.  Since I don't teach primary, I was not familiar with them either, but they are two groovy dudes!  I heard their breakout sessions were fantastic.  I bought my son Pete the Cat: I Love my White Shoes and we've probably read it and sang the song at least 20 times since yesterday afternoon.  In November, they are releasing a Pete the Cat Christmas book.  I already know one item on my son's list!  

If you live in Ohio, you definitely need to add the Dublin Literacy Conference to your to-do list for next year!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Author Study Unit!

I have been very busy the last few days working on an author study unit.  Since February is Black History Month, I am doing an author study of African American authors.  The authors we are focusing on are Angela Johnson and Faith Ringgold.  There were so many to choose from, but I decided on Angela Johnson because of her African American & family themes, plus she is an Ohioan!  Faith Ringgold was a given for me because I am just in love with her books and illustrations!  I have posted my first Angela Johnson author study in my Teacher's Notebook shop.  The first is a week-long unit using the books The Leaving Morning, When I Am Old With You, and Tell Me A Story, Mama.  I will be posting another unit soon using some of Angela Johnson's historical fiction books.  Lastly, I will post my Faith Ringgold unit.  The Ringgold unit will be available in two weeks.  

This is the first author study that I will be doing in my classroom.  I did a mini-author study on Eve Bunting last year, but not to the extend that I am doing with my African American author study.  With the first Johnson author study, we are going to focus on common themes, making connections, point of view, and author's craft.  I love how this unit has shaped up and I am excited to begin on Monday.  If you are interested in purchasing this unit, please visit my Teacher's Notebook shop!  

What author studies have you done in the past?  I am excited to create more units in the future!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Celebrating Dr. King

I'm sure like all of you, I was required to take a speech class in college.  On the first day, after reviewing the syllabus, our professor showed us a video of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.  I had heard this speech before, and knew what Martin Luther King stood for, and knew a little about his life, but I had no idea the magnitude of this speech.  There was just something about watching the clip of that speech that resonated with me.  It was so powerful.  And so well written.  And so eloquently spoken.  By the end of the speech, I was fighting back tears.  As a white woman living in a suburban town in the midwest, I see so much of Dr. King's dream coming true.  I'm sure there are African Americans who disagree with me, as they see racist and prejudice in their daily lives that I do not.  But there is no doubt that America is in a better place than it was 50 years ago.  

My students, like me in college, do not understand the powerful message Dr. King fought for.  They will not understand, I believe, until they are much older.  It is unfathomable to them that black boys and girls had to go to different schools, drink from different water fountains, and swim in different pools.  I wanted to find a book to at least try to get them to understand.  

I found My Dream of Martin Luther King by Faith Ringgold.  First of all, the illustrations in this book are amazing.  I was not familiar with author/illustrator Faith Ringgold before.  After reading this book a few times, I instantly wanted to run out and buy every single book she has written and illustrated.  This book walks you through the story of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement through the narrator's dream.  It starts off and ends with people trading in bags of racism, prejudice, and ignorance for bags of tolerance and hope.  This is a great picture book for middle grades, because not only do you get a great story with great illustrations, but it is also a great book to teach about symbolism.  

If this book does not exist in your classroom library, type your way over to Amazon as fast as you can!  

Happy Birthday, Dr. King.  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Day in My Shoes-Linky Party!

I'm linking up with Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher on her first linky party!  
This is a fun one!

Here is what a general day in my shoes is like:

6:00-6:30-Wake up.  Depending on how cold it is outside, whether or not I showered the night before or need to do it in the morning, or just the day determines the time!

6:30-7:15-Get dressed, hair, makeup, breakfast, pack lunch, check e-mail and Facebook (which is how I get the news!)

7:15-7:30-Wake up the boy, get him out of his diaper (He's potty trained except when he's sleeping-yay!), maybe get him dressed, maybe not, fix him his milk and pack his bag.  I always forget his shoes.  Always.  Good thing the sitter keeps a pair that fits him in case they go outside.  

7:45-Drop the boy off at the sitters.  He's been going there since he was 6 weeks old and they're pretty much a second family to him, so drop off time is quite easy.  Actually, most days he wakes up yelling "IwannagotoCari'shouse"  

7:45-8:00-Drive to school.  Listen to The Morning Zoo on the way in.  That's how I get my celebrity news.  

8:00-8:45-Sharpen pencils (if I have a sharpener that is working, otherwise I wait on my co-teacher to do it with hers!), get the morning message ready, get caught up on grading, copy papers if necessary, fill out discipline referrals and/or quiet room forms if needed, etc.  On Thursdays, I plan with my co-teachers and on Fridays I'm in a book study for Teach Like a Champion.  

8:50-9:15-Welcome my lovelies into the room.  I used to do check-in at my desk, it's worked wonderfully for 4 years, but my group cannot handle it this year.  At about 9:10 or so I started walking around to the students to check-in their homework and it has worked out so much better!  While I'm doing check-in, the students are working on their Daily Language, getting new books, or reading.  

9:20-10:00-Specials for the students.  My planning time.  I've always had a morning planning and I love it.  Twice a month we have Teacher Based Team (TBT) meetings.  

10:00-12:00-Reading & Language Arts with my homeroom class.  This is an inclusion class and my awesome teaching buddy is my co-teacher.  She and I have pushed to do inclusion together for about 4 years and this is the first year that schedules have worked out.  We both love it.  And all the students are thriving.  We went to a PD, which I posted about here in May, which was excellent, but there was definitely a learning curve and it will be even more successful next year!

12:00-12:45-Lunch/Duty.  My 30 minute lunch time depends on the week.  If I have lunch duty, it is from 12:00-12:15 and I eat after that.  If I have recess duty, I eat first, then have duty from 12:30-12:45.  If I have no duties (every third week), I get an entire 45 minutes for lunch!  We used to have hour lunch every third week, but we gave that up about midway through last year.  Yes, it was OUR idea!  Our students had a 30 minute lunch and 30 minute recess and we just felt like it was too much!  45 minutes is plenty.  They can stay in the cafeteria for 30 minutes if they want to, but they have to have 15 minutes for recess.  If they get done eating within the first 15 minutes of lunch, they can have 30 minutes for recess.  It's great.  

12:45-1:15-My homeroom class comes back to me and we usually do a read aloud, get our things ready for Math & Science or Social Studies, and take a restroom break.  

1:15-Switch classes.  

1:15-3:20-Reading with my afternoon class.  I usually do the same thing in the afternoon as I do in the morning.  I also have a co-teacher in the afternoon who we are calling a Reading Intervention teacher, but she works with the "bubble" kids.  You all know what I mean. Not special education, but not on grade level either.  We are so lucky to be the only building in our district to have this program.  She works with the other fourth grade class in the morning.  

3:20-3:40-Switch back.  Students fill out and I sign agendas.  I also give out stickers to students who didn't get any behavior checkmarks for the day.  I blogged about our behavior plan here.  Bussers begin getting dismissed around 3:30 and walkers are dismissed at 3:40.  

3:40-4:15-Clean up.  My desk is a crazy mess of papers by the end of the day.  Then, I usually waste a lot of time talking with my teacher-friends.  I'm outta there by 4:15 most days unless I have journals to grade that I don't want to take home.  

4:15-4:30-Drive home.  

4:30-Pick up the boy if my hubby's not home.  Get ready for dinner.  If he's home, he cooks.  If he's traveling, I do. Only out of necessity.  


6:00-7:15-play!!! I instituted a no TV on weeknight rule for myself and the boy and we almost always follow it.  We play a lot instead.  Superheroes.  Dinosaurs.  Superheroes & Dinosaurs.  If I'm lucky, we get to play play-dough.  

7:15-8:00-Bath time, story time, bed time for the boy.  What books do we read?  Books about Superheroes.  Or Dinosaurs.  Or books about Superheroes & Dinosaurs.  Yes, there is a book called "T-Rex Trouble" where the Superfriends save Metropolis from a T-Rex, Pteranodon, and Triceratops.  The boy can read it.  (I know, I know, he just memorized the words, but isn't that what "My Baby Can Read Is"?  It's much cooler to say my baby can READ this book!)  

8:00-9:30-Clean up, get on the computer, maybe break the TV rule, read, etc.  Workout if I feel like it.  Shower.  Crash.  

My days seem to go a lot quicker than the length of this post.  I'm sure I've completely bored all of you.  I guess a day in my shoes is really not all that exciting.  But, the linky party is a fun one, so link up!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Currently I Am...& Linky Party

Farley's blog has reached over 1000 followers and she's giving away two awesome pencil sharpeners!  The only thing you have to do is join her linky party!  Isn't that awesome?  You don't have to follow this, follow that, jump through hoops, give blood, etc.  
Just join her 'Currently' linky party!
Here's mine...

Link up at Oh Boy Fourth Grade to get your shot at the prize!  

Word Work Freebie!

After re-launching the Daily 5 and word work last week, I realized I needed to come up with more word work activities for my students to do.  They don't get that many choices in a week, but I want to make sure I keep things fresh for them.  Today I came up with a Valentine's Day Prefix-Suffix-Root match game.  I'm posting it for sale on my Teacher's Notebook shop, but I wanted to offer part of it up as a freebie to my faithful followers!  

click image to download freebie

In the freebie, there are 12 broken hearts, six prefixes & roots and six suffixes & roots and a sheet for students to record their answers.    The teacher (or a volunteer if you're one of the lucky ones!) would cut apart the broken hearts and the students are to match the prefix or suffix to the correct root word.  If you like the freebie, please consider making my shop one of your "favorites"!  

The full version, which is only $2.50, offers 48 broken hearts, 24 prefixes & roots and 24 suffixes & roots.  


Friday, January 6, 2012

New Item at Teacher's Notebook!

I've been working on making some word ladders for my students to do during Daily 5-word work.  I've finally finished enough to make it a package!  I have posted my same vowel word families word ladder package on my Teacher's Notebook store.  This is designed for spelling and vocabulary growth for my letter name stage spellers.  I'm working on some more for my within word spellers.  

Here is a little preview:  

Hope everyone had a great Friday!  I was stuck in a technology meeting all day.  Believe it or not, I would've much rather been at school!  On the plus side, I got out a little early and was able to go over to Half Price Books.  I've been borrowing a friend's Harry Potter books and I just finished The Goblet of Fire.  I have become addicted and decided I needed my own copies!  I got all seven books in hard back and five other books on my Good Reads list for $60!  I felt like I got a steal!  Is anyone else obsessed with Good Reads like I am?  I've got 34 books on my To-Read shelf!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Daily 5 Choice Boards-Intermediate Style

In fourth grade, I do not do a choice board for Daily 5.  I really don't have the space or the time.  In the past, I have always just verbally asked students for their choices and recorded them on my clipboard.  It doesn't take too much time if they are quiet and prepared to give me their choice.  At this point in the year, if they can't tell me their choice when I call their name, they get skipped. If they don't get the choice they wanted, tough.  Yeah, I'm a hard a$$ like that.  Just kidding.  This year I have decided to introduce something new.  I'm calling it a choice board, but it's not really. I guess I just don't have another creative name for it.  

At the top, I have written 'Why?  To become better readers, writers, and spellers.'  If you've read the Daily 5 book, you will know this as our "sense of urgency."  This is really a motto in my classroom.  My school is an OIP school (Ohio Improvement Process-or something like that) and we have done Marzano training.  We have classroom walk-throughs in which data is collected on the Marzano strategies that are being used in the classroom.  One of the strategies is Setting Objectives.  During the classroom walk-throughs, the data collector is to ask a student if they know the goal of the lesson.  If a walk-through takes place during Daily 5, my students almost always answer "To become better readers, writers, and spellers."  It's not because I've told them what to say, they just know that is why we do Daily 5.  

On average, I usually only get to do two daily 5 choices each day.  My mini-lessons are not quite so mini, and my schedule really only allows for two choices.  You will see I have columns for two choices and two efforts.  Last year, I started recording students' efforts during Daily 5 (Another Marzano strategy!).  We created a rubric together (Marzano!) and I've used it ever since.  Well, my students this year think we created it together too, but it's really the same one.  Shh...don't tell!  My students are usually very good about being truthful with their effort.  It only takes a few times at the beginning of the year to call a student out on his/her true effort and they learn...yeah, that thing I said I was at the top.  I know.  On this new "choice board" or whatever fancy name you want to call it, I have also given the effort rubric.  So, each day, students are going to record their choices and their efforts.  At the bottom, I listed the choices and priorities.  I give my students a week to complete their weekly word work packet and some were still not turning it in.  It is now listed as a priority.  You must show me your completed packet before you can do anything fun.  I know...again.  My students must also do Read to Self at least once a day.  The only exception to this is if they are in guided reading group during one of the choices.  

Students will keep this in their literacy binders and turn in every Friday.  My hope is that they will be more aware of the choices they are making and the effort they are putting forth.  If you want a copy of this, just click the image and you can download it from Google Docs.  Oh, and now that it's driving me crazy, who has a fancy schmancy name for this choice board?