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!