Saturday, October 20, 2018

Make A Mini-Thesaurus

As my classroom has transitioned to anchor charts created with students, I've found less need for all the fancy posters I've purchased over the years. Check out how we made a mini-thesaurus from an old poster!


We used this poster, and it's been a huge hit!

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of these links. These commissions help support the blog. All opinions are my own.

Click the picture to grab a copy!
I cut the poster apart into individual sections. I laminated each piece and punched a hole in the top.


I used a metal ring and ran it through all the cards to make a quick and easy mini-thesaurus!


These have turned into the most used “thesaurus” in the room! Kids use the heck out of these little guys…they take them off the rings and share them around and often kids are looking around to find them. (NOTE: the metal ring/lamination did not hold up as well as I would have liked, but they managed to get it back together with plenty – and I mean PLENTY – of Scotch tape.)


Which posters do you have hanging around that could get a new life?? 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Halloween Sanity Savers

Look. I'm not trying to be a party pooper. I swear. But....Halloween at school stresses me out! All I want on Halloween is a quiet day. No party. No costumes. No craziness.

On the other hand, I don't want to be *that* teacher. So I've found a few ways to save my sanity on Halloween and still have fun with my 5th graders!



This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of these links. These commissions help support the blog. All opinions are my own.

Halloween Read Aloud
Even the big kids enjoy a fun read aloud! There are so many great ones out there - but here are a couple of my favorites. Click the pictures to grab them for your classroom!

Creepy Carrots: Jasper Rabbit loves to eat carrots...until they start following him!! My class loves this creepy story and the pictures are awesome.


I Need My Monster: This has a fun twist on the traditional "monster under the bed" story. Not just ANY monster will do!


Spooky YouTube
Find a spooky YouTube music channel and keep it on all day! It sets the Halloween mood and doesn't interfere with the students working. I found one that was kid friendly, instrumental music. It was perfect for the background of the day! (I used the one below last year, but there are tons if you search YouTube.)



Halloween Math
Even though we don't have a party, that doesn't mean we can't use our math skills to plan a pretend one! This Halloween Math resource is perfect for some Halloween fun while practicing decimal skills. There are word problems, party planning, and using information in a table. My class had a great time thinking of all the ways to spend some Halloween money! There are also some fun Color-By-Code pages so they can practice decimals and math facts AND color. You can grab this resource in my TpT store here.


Pumpkin Point of View
This was a spur of the moment activity that turned into a class favorite! We were working on point of view in our writing and reading units, and then we turned that into a fun Halloween writing prompt. These stories turned out to be hilarious and the class had a great time writing and sharing.




Spooky Owl Craft
Every year, my amazing mama comes to school to do a fall/Halloween craft with my class. These spooky owls are always a hit and make a pretty awesome decoration too!




Tuesday, July 24, 2018

How Problem of the Week Saved My Sanity

I'd like to preface this blog post with a friendly reminder:

I am NOT a morning person.

I am a bleary-eyed, coffee-clutching, stumbling fool before about 9:00 am. Yet...

MY SCHOOL STARTS AT 7:30. Students begin arriving at 7:20. I needed a way to help the morning routine run smoothly so I didn't accidentally say or do something inappropriate in my morning-cranky haze.

I've been using word problems as a way to engage 5th grade mathematicians for awhile, and first thing in the morning seemed like a good time to establish a routine that would accomplish a few things: get them working right away, foster independence when things got a little tough, improve their problem solving skills and give them an opportunity to share and get feedback.


Here's How It Works

Every Monday morning (usually, because #reallife) my whole class receives a new Problem of the Week on their desk. Their job is to glue it into their notebook when they arrive and start working independently. (Key word: independently. As in, "It's Monday. It's before 9:00. Please work by yourself while I do teacher-y things like take attendance and drink my coffee.") But seriously, I want them to work alone so they can do their best thinking and not worry about what their partner is doing. I find this gives even the most reluctant students an opportunity to have something to share when they do find a partner. They work until the announcements come on, which at my school gives them about 10 minutes.


The next day when students arrive, they get out their problems and keep working. Most likely, they didn't finish the day before, but even if they did, they can review and revise their work. Every problem I use has an extended thinking question, so they can also move on to work on that part. Again, we work until announcements.


The following days (usually Wednesday and Thursday) are a little different because, once a student is ready, they are free to find a partner to share ideas or help each other get unstuck. I've had very little interaction with them on these problems so far, because I'm trying to foster that independence and critical thinking. Working with partners helps them to see the problem from another point of view or to confirm that they were on the right track! We had lots of conversations about what to do when they got stuck, and so we made it into a digital anchor chart.

And put it into their notebooks:

These days are also the time when students revise their work based on their discussions with partners. This might mean adding a bit more detail, changing some part of their answer, or explaining their thinking more clearly. I always ask students to review in another color so it's easy for them (and me!) to see how their thinking has changed.

On the last day, usually Friday, students get the opportunity to share their thinking with the whole class. I usually choose a few students who solved the problem in different ways or some who made mistakes along the way. I also like to choose students who explained their thinking particularly well or who showed unique thinking in their strategies. (I also love to showcase organized, clear, and concise work!)


The whole week looks something like this:


Why Use Problem of the Week?

It turns out simplifying the morning routine wasn't the only great thing about having a Problem of the Week routine.

It also:

  • helped kids practice skills in just (about) 10 minutes per day.
  • encouraged a smooth transition into the school day.
  • was a great way to introduce a new concept in a problem solving context.
  • gave students opportunities to review their own work every day.
  • encouraged revision of ideas and work.
  • offered opportunities to collaborate and discuss with other students.
  • taught students how to help each other without giving answers.
  • gave students lots of opportunities to be successful and grow.

Wrapping It Up (I swear!)

Problem of the Week has literally been a morning routine game changer in my 5th grade classroom. They know what to do. They do it. I drink coffee and take attendance and do anything else that needs taking care of in the morning. (Because you know the office is calling and someone left their backpack in the cafeteria and it's probably snowing so everyone is dealing with boots and hats and mittens.) 

And beyond the obvious plus of me not being a crazy lunatic in the morning, the students really grew. Not only in their mathematical knowledge and abilities, but in their confidence, their willingness to take risks and their ability to discuss mathematics with a partner. It was a win for everyone!

You can totally create your own problems for this routine, or find some in your math resource. (Usually all the good word problems are at the end of the chapter...) 

Or if you want some that are already done for you, you can check these out on TpT. These problems all focus on the Number and Operations in Base Ten standards for 5th grade. (More domains coming soon!!!) Click on the picture to check it out. 

Problem of the Week Graphic


If you think you want to give it a try, just do it! Your sanity, and your students, will benefit.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Summer Book Study 2018 - "Teaching Reading in Small Groups"

Are you looking to up your small group reading game this summer?

Check out this summer book study at Adventures in Literacy Land! I'm a guest blogger over there - giving you all the info on chapter 2 of this awesome book.

Grab your copy of the book right {here} so you can jump in on the conversation! (This is an affiliate link!)

 Click the graphic below to take you to the chapter 2 blog post...


Check back in at Adventures in Literacy Land every Sunday to see a synopsis and discussion of each chapter!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Springing to Action: Tips for Literacy Skills

Happy Friday, friends! I'm so glad that spring is finally here and the weather is slowly, but surely, improving in our corner of the world. Today I want to share with you a step by step process for introducing your writers to a new genre that is fun and engaging!



I am super excited to be linking up with some amazing teachers from The Reading Crew to bring you this idea and freebie! At the end of this post be sure to click through the links to find tons more great ideas and to enter the unbelievable giveaway.

I'm not lying when I say that I use this strategy every time it's time to introduce a new genre to my 5th grade writers. I've found it's engaging and effective, which makes for a win in my book.

Step 1: Read and Record
First, I choose 2-3 texts that highlight the elements of the genre we are about to write. Depending on which genre, I either read the text aloud to the whole class or give them their own copies to read and mark up. (Usually, I read aloud narrative and poetry, while giving out copies of articles for informational and opinion.) While they are reading or listening, the students listen and look for techniques the author is using to achieve this writing style. They record their ideas on sticky notes, in their writer's notebook or on this graphic organizer which you can grab for free in my TpT store.


If they are doing sticky notes or notebooks, they make a bulleted list.

Step 2: Share and Create Anchor Chart #1
Once everyone has had the opportunity to read the text and write down their "noticings," we gather on the carpet to share out ideas. Depending on the time we have, I will pull sticks in order for everyone to have a chance to share something they noticed. As each student shares, I record their idea on this anchor chart:


This gives us all a place to gather a ton of ideas, and helps us in the next step, which is to create a list of non-negotiable elements for that particular genre.

Step 3: Anchor Chart #2 (Built in Rubric)
After we have looked at 2-3 examples of the genre we are introducing, we start to use the previous anchor chart to look for similarities between each text. We use those similarities to build our "Elements of _______" anchor chart. This anchor chart serves two purposes: to synthesize our thinking from each mentor text and to create a built in rubric for our new genre. This anchor chart gives us everything we will need to create solid writing pieces - no mystery at all!



This has been the most effective and engaging way to introduce and explore a new genre in my classroom. These anchor charts stay up throughout the whole unit (and beyond) and not just because I hate to climb on a chair to get the staples out! Seriously though, my students refer to these lists throughout the year to remind them what their pieces need to include. They are the most referred-to references in my class!

Don't forget to pick up the graphic organizers for free right {here}.

Thank you so much for stopping by! To show our appreciation for our awesome readers, we are having an amazing giveaway! Enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And don't forget to keep hopping through all the posts to get some great ideas to keep your readers and writers blooming! Next stop: Sweet Integrations for some thoughts on digital book reviews! Happy reading!





Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Easy Ways to Find Partners!

I can't believe that winter break is here already! This year is flying by, and I can definitely tell that it's time for a break.

My students are moody. Chatty. Cranky. AND sick of each other. They have been seeing the same people day in and day out for the past several months and they need a break. (So does their teacher, by the way.)

Normally, I let 5th graders choose their partners. It's fast and easy and I don't have to worry about trying to avoid certain partnerships. Let's be honest, I'm a lazy hands-off teacher when it comes to partners. But the couple of weeks right before winter break really made me rethink this laissez faire attitude of mine. In order for everyone to still be on speaking terms before the semester ended, I needed to intervene and help them work with some new people that they weren't burned out on.


Here are a few ways I mixed it up - and will be mixing it up - for choosing partners this year!

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of these links. These commissions help support the blog. All opinions are my own.

1. Pulling Sticks
An oldie but a goodie, pulling popsicle sticks with two names on them is easy and quick! One upside to this method is the fact that you can make partners, group of 3 or 4 or any size quickly and easily. A downside is that it is pretty random and you might end up with some people who can't work well together. True confessions - sometimes I peek and adjust as I pull!!!


Upside: quick and easy, can make groups larger than 2
Downside: less teacher control over partnerships

2. Clock Partners
For years (I'm not kidding) I have been saying I wanted to try clock partners. But I never did. I thought it would be too time consuming to set up and so I always put it off. Not this year though!! I saw a blog post about this from Jennifer at Cult of Pedagogy and I decided to stop balking and just do it. AND I'm really glad I did. This method gives me a little bit of control over some of the partnerships and gives the students lots of choices when they are filling in their partners. (They can still avoid people who aren't the right fit for them and have many other choices for partners.)

The basic idea is this: print out a clock or a table filled with times. Mine was a table with times from 12:00-11:00. They find a different partner for each time and write the name down on their paper. I had my students leave two times blank and I filled them in with the names of two people I wanted them to work with. (I based these partners on reading and math ability.) Then, they keep their paper at their desk and when I don't want the hassle of 5th grade drama interfering with partners, I just tell them to find their 6 o'clock partner and voila! I don't lose my mind and everyone has a partner.


Upside: teacher does not lose her mind, all students have lots of choices, less random than pulling sticks
Downside: only works for partners, students catch on when you call the same time consistently, takes a bit of time to set up

3. Playing Cards
Using a plain old deck of playing cards is a great way to mix it up when creating groups. This works really well if you want to mix it up for seating, group projects, etc. Students draw a card and then find the people who have the other cards in that set. For example - all the students with a 4 become a group.

Upside: relatively quick, will mix up students randomly to work with new people, can create groups up to 4 people
Downside: less control over grouping, need to make sure you have the right number of cards and matches before passing out cards

4. Partner Cards
Partner cards are a variation on playing cards, and work just about the same. Each student gets a card and then finds the person with the match. The difference is that with partner cards, students are getting a quick bit of practice with a skill. For example, my students are just getting started with fractions, so we are using fraction partner cards! In this case, they find the person who has the fraction and visual representation that match. Those people then become partners! There are also some sets that create a group of 3, like the naming numbers set. They have to find the standard form, word form and expanded form cards to form their group.

I have also used these cards for students to find a partner during Morning Meeting. I leave a card on each desk, then when they come in each morning then use their card to find the person they will greet. (You can have a little more control of who will become partners if you do it this way - simply lay the right matches out on those students' desks.)


Upside: can make partners or groups of 3, students are practicing skills at the same time, will get kids working with new and different people
Downside: no groups larger than 3, some prep to make sure you have the right number of cards to match, less teacher control over groups

This partner card resource has many different sets of partner cards to practice a bunch of different skills. There is a math one and one for ELA skills, or you can grab it in the money saving bundle!


I'd love to hear how you make finding partners easy in your classroom! Leave me a comment below with your awesome idea!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Better Word Choice Using Pinduli


Ah, beginning of the year writing samples. They are the best, aren't they? {eye roll} It's clear that most kids have not picked up a pencil all summer long, let alone written words, and you can forget about stringing them together into a sentence. Usually by the time I have finished reading them I have laid my head down on my desk and groaned MORE THAN ONCE.

BUT, the beauty of the B.O.Y. writing sample? Everyone has room to grow and you can see all the amazing potential in each writer sitting in front of you each day. I especially love using mentor texts at the beginning of the year so that everyone can try something new each day in their writing. These amazing examples give every kid something to shoot for. Whenever we use a new mentor text, I always ask my students, "Did you see anything you could try?" and every hand goes up!

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of these links. These commissions help support the blog. All opinions are my own.

Mentor Text Idea
Whenever my students need a refresher on improving their word choice, I turn to a trusted favorite: Pinduli by Janell Cannon.



Before we read, I have everyone grab their writer's notebooks and come down to the carpet with a pencil. (Yes, even in 5th grade I have them come to the carpet!) Each student finds the next clean page and gets their pencil ready. I ask them to listen carefully to the story and to record the words they hear that give them the best picture in their mind. At this point, they are only making a list, so they can use bullets to write the words down quickly. (Sometimes, I don't even show the pictures so that students can really create their own images in their minds.)

After we finish the book, we do a think-pair-share about the words. I ask them to choose one or two words from their lists and tell their partner why they chose those particular words. After their conversations, I ask them to think about the words they chose and why. Most kids say they enjoy how the words make the story clear, and how the words help them understand even better!

The last part of this activity (a freebie for you!) is to take some overused and boring words, and brainstorm/find words from the story to replace them. This graphic organizer can go into their writing folders as a reminder of some much better words to use! The students can do this while you read, or after - it's up to you! Click the picture below to grab your freebie.



I love to see how quickly these words appear in their writing. It makes the next writing sample MUCH easier to read.

Help for Hurricane Harvey Victims
As we all headed back to school, I read so many stories from teachers in Houston and the surrounding areas that were heartbreaking. I have so many friends from the Teachers Pay Teachers and online teaching community who were affected by Harvey. If you feel so inclined to help out fellow teachers in Texas please consider donating to this GoFundMe that will directly benefit schools in need.

Hurricane Harvey GoFund Me

Make sure you check out more mentor text lessons from The Reading Crew AND enter to win a copy of EACH book used for the lessons and freebies shared!

a Rafflecopter giveaway