Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Announcing Innovative Book-Study Reboot: To Lock In Writing Strategies for Student Writers

I have been fortunate to be a part of an amazing book study hosted by Kelly Malloy and a group of fabulous teachers.  I learned so much about helping my students become better writers by reading The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers  by Jennifer Serravallo. Writing is such a complex subject that I need to revisit this book.

This book study just finished, but now that it is summer, I need to jump in to reread it ~ reboot ~ and reflect on the 10 big goals of writing.  As I read this time, I hope to blog about each section to help me reflect on what I am learning.  I want to improve my writing, so I can do a better job of helping my students in the fall.

Each time I write about a goal, I'll link to the other teachers so you can gather even more information.  Each teacher mentions just a few of the over 300 writing strategies.  The really cool thing about this book is that it is an easy read, and practical resource for teachers.

You can find my posts for previous sections below:

Composing With Pictures

This is a great strategy for emergent readers.  Children who freeze up at the thought of writing can use these strategies to communicate their thinking without worrying about the words.

Jennifer Serravallo states, "children are planning their writing, drafting, and revising- but the work is in pictures.  It is the teachers job to teaching our students how to add the details and make their drawings 'readable' to others."

Talk As You Draw

Although it makes the classroom a little noisier, having students quietly talk as they draw will engage them.  This gives the student immediate feedback as he/she hears himself/herself.  To be honest, I usually reread things I am writing to myself.  Hearing my writing helps me catch mistakes clarify what I meant to say.

Reread Your Pictures So It Sounds Like a Storybook

This is a great idea for older students as well as younger.  I often draw charts before I start on a project.  The next step is thinking about how I want to use it and talking to myself.  That being said, it is not surprising that this would be an easy strategy to use in a variety of ways.

Touch, Then Draw

aka Touch, Think, Draw

I just had to rename this one, because it helps me remember this brilliant strategy.  You see, I'm not an artist, so I need to see the simple shapes in things so I can draw them.  I'm sure kids are the same way, so this is going to be a strategy I use with my students even though they are older.  Here are the prompts:
  • As you touch, what shape do you feel?
  • Think about the simple shape.
  • Draw the simple shape.
Remember to Link back to the original book study for more insight.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Three Facts You Need to Know About #Summer2017

I just found out about #Summer2017.  Did you know about it?  I found out about it by reading online. Here is what I found out:

Although it looks like a twitter deal, it is actually on TeachersPayTeachers. This is one of my all-time favorite sites.  It's like going treasure hunting for me.  I never know what amazing deals I will find.

Today and tomorrow - that is, June 26th and June 27- you can type in and see Dollar Deals.  That's right, you can stock up and save on items that teachers have marked down.  The only catch is that quick timeline.

You have three choices:
  • Ignore the deals and keep enjoying your summer
  • Check out the deals and maybe save some money
  • Add your own deals and maybe make some money
No matter which option you choose, you are going to have a great outcome.  I am choosing to check out the deals in hopes of saving some money, and post my own deals and maybe make some money (so I can spend it on clip art on TpT). Here is what I just posted.  (If you are interested in finding out more about any of them, just click on the pictures)

I am really into a beach theme and so I had to add this special deal.

Amy animal report is my newest product.  In it, I link to my first eBook.  I'm going to have students create eBooks this year.  It's going to be a great experience.

I posted this little beauty after Easter so people didn't get the best benefit of it.  It takes some planning and prep, but it makes a wonderful Easter project for the kids during their spring holiday.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Who Wants to Dig Deep For Summer Treasure?

Summer treasure can come in many forms.  For me, it is learning new things.  This morning, I spent time learning about Wild Cats, and setting up a web-page to assist students when they research these amazing animals.

Here is a little background for my readers. I work in a small district with one school for each age level. The high school mascot has always been the Tiger, while the primary school kids (K-2) were the Tiger Cubs. About fifteen years ago, the middle school kids became the Bengal Tigers. A few years later the elementary school (grades 3-5) converted to the wild cats. So what does this actually mean? It means that our kids wear black and orange for 12 years. 

This last school year our 5th graders had the privilege to visit Cat Haven, a nature park dedicated to preserving wild cats. This field trip fits in nicely with our mascots, and we used the visit to practice our research skills. I began working on the "Wild Cats" web-page before the trip, again after the trip, and after yesterday's work, I can finally say that it looks ready for next year.


While researching, I found some real nuggets of treasure that are worth sharing.

First, I was fascinated by the variety of wild cats and the different sounds they make. Watch/listen to this.
My students are going to love watching this.

Next, I found a new site that is sure to interest young researchers. Pictures of Cats  or PoC
I really like the close up pictures with the globe showing where the cat is from. This particular picture features the fish cat catching fish. This fishing cat reminds me of my house cat, George, who weighs 11 pounds. The fish cat usually weighs between 10-30 pounds, so I can easily picture this fishing cat.

The Marbled Cat is the size of a small cat, and super rare.

The next website is called Big Cat Rescue.  The unique thing about this site is that students can read along with the research. It is a very kid friendly site.

Additionally, this site also provides intresting videos that provide some great information. Here is one on the cougar.

Students Can Create eBooks 

I just created an eBook as a demonstration lesson using Flip Html5 Here is  quick video about it

Here is my eBook on The Flat-Headed Cat

It is part of my Animal Research Unit
which can be purchased in my TeachersPayTeachers store, Digging Deep to Soar Beyond the Text.

I love working on projects and finding out what other teachers are digging into during their holiday. Feel free to let me know by responding in the comments below. In the meantime, I hope you are having a great summer.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Classroom Motto: Work Hard, Play Hard

We began the year in August by setting goals using the 5th grade Manifesto by Kelly Malloy.

Besides being a beautiful project, it was a great reflection piece at Open House in April.  Students were able to look back on their original goals and tell their parents how they have accomplished them throughout the year.  Click HERE for more information. 

Reflecting on the 5th grade Manifesto was also part of their "Open House Scavenger Hunt" which made Open House a huge success, because the children were in charge of showcasing what they accomplished throughout the year.  I was just there for a meet and greet. 

Not one parent had to ask me how their student was doing because their student was able to answer that question. 

 We also set reading goals each month, and then reflected on them at the end of the month so we could make new goals.  HERE is the link to an earlier post on how I do this in my classroom.

I am so pleased with how my students progressed.  We used Accelerated Reader to measure our reading each month, and every student hit 50 points.  Many students reached 100 points or more.  On Friday the class celebrated with a pizza party.
I got so caught up into serving the pizza, that I forgot to take pictures.  Along with the boxes of pizza the cafeteria brought beautiful huge strawberries, cantaloupe slices and juice boxes. It was not your everyday cafeteria pizza. It was a special delivery, that the kids enjoyed (and I didn't have to pay out extra cash-- so it was a double win!)

Some of the most rewarding comments include:

  • "I didn't think I could ever reach 100. I think I'll go for 150 next year."
  • "Last year I only reached 5 points and this year I did 75."
  • "Do they do AR over at the other school? Maybe I'll get a head start and read this summer."
  • "I had such a hard time getting to 50, and now I'm at 100!"
We used the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) and all of my students showed growth. About half the class showed two, three, and even four years of reading growth.  Of course I hope it shows up on the big state test, but my main goal is to help students learn to love to read, reflect, and become life long learners. 

Last week I passed out their "Summer Journals".

I am hoping that the students will use these journals for three things:
  1. Jot down things they do and think during the summer.
  2. List the books they read, so they can take AR tests when then start school next year.
  3. Reflect on their summer and make new goals for their school year next year.  
    One of my colleagues suggested I add a book review.  So I did.  This summer journal was given to the fourth grade teachers so I am hoping some students are ready to share their favorite summer books.      

I have included sites they can use to read and practice math. Through our county, students have access to Tumble Books. We also have an account with Storia. If you know of any free online sites, I would love to hear about them.

Meanwhile, here are some free math sites my students love: 

My goal is that my students use these fun websites to play this summer.  They love these sites, but they also learn from them.  They worked hard during the school year, and now they can play hard.

An added bonus to these journals was the addition of the student autograph pages.  Since our 5th graders move on to a new campus next year, we take all 5-6 classes out so they can sign autographs and write notes to their friends.
Pages were included where we added their pictures and spaces to write to each student, and then we had a few "free for all" pages where anyone could sign.

Finally, because I like to color, there are a few coloring pages like this one.
Being a sand collector, I always hit a couple of beaches in the summer. 

What else should be added to the journal? 
Any thoughts? 
I'd love to hear some suggestions.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Who Can Resist a $100 Mega Teacher Giveaway?

I couldn't resist. Just click on the picture. You only have until Tuesday, because the winner will be announced on Wednesday. The giveaway is on the Facebook page of  My Classroom Callouts.

Here are a few more freebies I discovered:
{FREE} Rainbow Arrows Clipart Set — Includes 15 Graphics!

Language Skills: FREE Printable Worksheet - Tone (Grades 3-7)

FREE FONTS:  KB3 Comic Kats (Personal Use: K26 Series)
I am knew to KB3 so I am trying her out for the first time too.

Brag Tags - Field Trip
Cute Field Trip Brag Tags by 5th in the Middle

{FREE} Party Hat Blank Face Characters Clipart Set — Inclu

End of the Year Activity: Freebie

A slice of real melon as a "taste test" would go really well with this writing activity.