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







Sunday, September 3, 2017

Building Student Confidence In Math

Every August, I take a poll in my 5th grade classroom. Everyone gets to vote for their favorite subject. Each year, hands wave for reading, science, writing and social studies.

But, inevitably, math is always the biggest loser. Maybe one or two hands shyly wave, but most kids avoid making eye contact at all costs.

One of the most concerning things I notice about 5th graders and math is the lack of confidence in their own abilities and thinking. At the beginning of the year it's crucial to give students successful experiences to help them build their confidence and get ready to tackle harder, more complex mathematical situations.


Here's one activity I use at the beginning of the year to help build mathematical confidence in my students.

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.

Choosing A Problem

First, I choose a problem that I know every single kid (EVERY.SINGLE.ONE) can have access to. By this, I mean that the problem is open ended enough that even my most struggling students can participate and understand how to do something. (It doesn't have to be grade level work here. Just a problem with enough entry points to let everyone dig in.)

One of my favorite resources for problems like these, is the book Eyes On Math: A Visual Approach to Teaching Math Concepts by Marian Small. This book is full of great visuals to help kids think about mathematical concepts. Each page has a visual aligned to a standard and a question to get kids thinking. The visual is also given as a pdf so you can print them or display them on your projector. There are teacher questions and ideas for extensions. Check it out {here.}


Working on the Problem
We started with a problem that is designed to explore factors.


At first, I give each student a copy of the picture. (Yes, I print them in color because my principal is nice, but you could print them in black and white and it would be just fine!) They have a few minutes to look it over by themselves. Then, I ask them what they notice about it and they record their "noticings" in their math notebook. They always notice the patterns and the colors - but they also notice that they are in three sections, there are 18 in each section and many kids notice that two of the sections have equal groups. I accept any and all ideas at this point, since I just asked them to "notice."



Then I display the question that goes with the picture. In this case, it was "How many people can share 18 marbles?" They can use the picture to help them. I ask them to work alone for about 5 minutes and then they get together with a partner to share ideas. This also helps anyone who might be stuck to get on board and grab an idea. (In the years that I have done this, I have had very few kids who couldn't engage on some level. If necessary, I get out beans so they can have a manipulative to work with.)



The best part about this section of the lesson is that many kids come up with one way to share - 2 people can each have 9 or 6 people can each have 3. But once they start talking to each other they quickly realize there are several answers! This is the best part in my opinion, because the conversations are amazing. Most kids think they are right (and they are) but to see that other people came up with different answers that are also right really gets them talking, thinking and proving their ideas.


After they talk to partners about their ideas we share out to the whole group and talk about all the different answers there could be. By this point, most of them have come up with all the possibilities, but just in case we discuss it and if there are any questions we use pictures of manipulatives to prove whether their ideas work.

Reflection
The last step in this process is reflecting. I ask each student to make a bullet list in their math notebook with the title "What Helps Me Learn Math." I ask them to think back to the problem they just worked on and write down things that helped them be successful.



After everyone has made their lists, we use one idea from each person to create my absolute favorite anchor chart of the year. We do it together and it is a great way to honor all the different ways kids prefer to learn in math. I do this every year to show my students that I care about their learning as individuals, and that we can respect the fact that not everyone will learn the same way.



I leave this anchor chart up all year as a reminder.

Starting the year with an easily accessible problem and some reflection on how we all learn really helps build the climate for mathematical learning in my classroom. When students feel like they CAN do it, the confidence can be there right from the start! I love starting off with this before we jump into our prescribed mathematics resource.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Labeling the Library: A First Day Activity

One of the best things about 5th graders is their ability to adapt to a new situation and make it theirs in a heartbeat. AND I love using that to my advantage when it comes to setting up the classroom.

This year, I couldn't get in to set up my room as early as I might have liked, so that meant that several jobs went unfinished before the students arrived. One of those jobs was labeling the library. (Which I of course leave to the last minute every year, but this year I just flat ran out of time.) Instead of freak out and stay at school until midnight, I decided to see if the 5th graders could give me a hand finishing up the library labeling task.

Library Labeling Activity

On the first day of school, I explained the situation to them and asked them if they could help. It was the first day of school, SO they said yes. They were still trying to get me to like them. (Spoiler alert: I already liked them!)

They put themselves into groups of 3 and pulled an unlabeled bucket off the shelf. I asked them to peruse the contents and decide what an appropriate label would be. They looked at titles, authors, series, and topics to decide what the label needed to say.


Once a decision was made, each group created a label from a 3X5 index card and we stuck it on the outside with book tape. To get every bin labeled only took about 35 minutes! Once they were done with a bucket, they grabbed another one and repeated the process.


In most cases, they were spot on with their descriptions and it has already saved me a ton of time and sanity when it comes to my massive amount of books. Not to mention, their labels are cute and unique and made by THEM! They have taken ownership of that part of our classroom already. YAY for 5th grade capabilities!



This will definitely be a first day of school activity for my classes in the future! How about you? What's your favorite first day of school activity?


Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Sunny Giveaway

We hope that you have all enjoyed some awesome savings this week on resources to use in your classrooms! To end the week, we put together an awesome giveaway!


To wrap up the week, enter to win a $25 Amazon giftcard, a $25 TpT giftcard and a $25 Staples giftcard at the giveaways below. Thanks for participating in all the fun sales this week!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to all who enter!
 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Field Day Survival Guide

I am not a huge fan of Field Day.

There. I said it. I know I'm probably in the minority here, but it is not one of my favorite days. Yes, the kids have fun. Yes, they run around and get their energy out. BUT they also act nutty and don't listen and I lose my voice by the end of the day. Hmph.

So, just in case I'm not the only person who is a Field Day cranky pants, I came up with a Field Day Survival Guide for all of us.



Ok, ok...I know. Not possible. So, let's get real.



Tip #1: Get Comfy
Luckily for me, my principal is totally cool with us getting comfy. IF you can, make sure you have a floppy hat, your most awesome pair of sunglasses, and your comfiest pair of shoes. I prefer tennis shoes, but flip-flops seem like a good choice too.

Tip #2: Stay Hydrated
Even though it might be tempting to fill that water bottle with margaritas, that is probably not a good idea. Since you don't want to get fired, make sure you have a water bottle full of cold water. Staying hydrated makes me much less cranky AND saves my voice a little. (Don't get too carried away though, because you know you can't pee until Field Day is over.)

Tip #3: SUNSCREEN
This one is in ALL CAPS for a reason. It's because I always forget. Every. Single. Year. And then I am even more cranky because I'm hot, tired, no voice AND sunburned. Don't forget the sunscreen. And if you have Field Day for the WHOLE day, don't forget to reapply. Maybe twice, just in case.

Tip #4: Popsicles
Our PE teacher makes "Popsicles" a station. Because she is awesome. I used to feel a little guilty getting a popsicle, since I am NOT a 5th grader, but I've gotten over it. So, tip #4 is - get yourself a popsicle. Relish it.

Tip #5: Let It Go
This tip is the hardest for me. If you are anything like me as a teacher, I like it when it's quiet. When kids are working and learning and things are pretty under control. I'm not saying I don't like having fun - and we have plenty of it - but chaos is not my thing. Field Day feels like chaos. Over the years, it has stressed me out and freaked me out to the point of exhaustion at the end of every field day. So here's tip #5 - LET IT GO. (You can sing it, if you want to.)

Lauren is bonking Xavier on the head with a rogue pool noodle? Let it go.

Manuel cheated at kickball and never touched homeplate? Let it go.

No one knows the rules to the game in the gym so they are pretty much just running around like crazy people? Cover your ears and let it go.

Everyone is running amok and dumping water on each other's heads? Let. It. Go.

Once I realized that there is no point in trying to wrangle 25 5th graders who are intent on whacking each other senseless with a pool noodle, Field Day was a much better day. I decided it's a great day to talk to parents, play with younger siblings and just generally make sure no one punches anyone or gets seriously injured. (Side note: There is no crying on Field Day. This is an important rule for students AND me.)

Last, but not least...be prepared. We only have a half day for Field Day, so I always like to have something planned for the afternoon that keeps kiddos busy and lets them rest and relax. (Because they are tired, cranky and sunburned too...)

You can check out the activities I use to keep kids engaged after Field Day right {here}. Or click the pic below...


I hope everyone has a great, stress-free, not-too-hot, delicious popsicle, hydrated, no sunburn, no tears Field Day. If you have any great ideas to keep sane on Field Day, please leave them in the comments!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Using Sorts to Improve Sentence Writing


If you know me, you know that a good sort is one of my favorite instructional strategies. I actually think my grade level colleagues get sick of me saying, "Let's use a sort to start that lesson!"

BUT I really believe in the power of classifying to help students develop their ideas and hone their meta-cognitive skills. (If you haven't read Classroom Instruction That Works: Research Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement, I highly recommend it. This is an affiliate link!)

So when I realized a few of my students were struggling with writing complete sentences, I immediately thought a sort might help them identify what a run-on sentence is and then we could work on fixing it!

To do this activity, we used a set of cards with examples of complete sentences, run-on sentences and sentence fragments. (You can make your own, or you can grab the ones I used in this resource.)


Set Up
First up, I spread all the cards out on the table. Instead of telling my group the categories ahead of time, I asked them to read the cards and see if they noticed anything they might have in common. They took turns reading each card aloud. The kids noticed that there were some cards that were "missing something" and some cards that were missing punctuation. They weren't quite sure about the others.



Discussion and Naming Categories
After reading aloud each card and sharing what they noticed, I asked them to think about how they would group the cards. They settled on "missing something," "missing punctuation" and "not missing anything." As a group, they sorted all the cards into their chosen categories. Once they were finished, I helped them name the groups with the "proper" names for each: sentence fragments, run-on sentences and complete sentences.


Fixing Up Some Sentences
At this point in the lesson, I was able to tailor it slightly toward the specific students in my group. This group happened to be writing lots and lots of run-on sentences, so I chose to focus on that skill for the group. (Depending on your students you could focus on fragments at this stage or a little of both!) We chose one of the run-on sentences from the cards and I wrote it on my mini-whiteboard. The group discussed where the punctuation should go to make it "sound right," and then fixed it up.



We did two examples together and then I asked them to fix two with their partner. (In the resource, there is a page for practicing correcting fragments and run-ons that you could use!) Reading the run-ons aloud really helped them to hear where the punctuation was missing. They even created some compound sentences using conjunctions once they got the hang of it!

Independent or Partner Practice
On this particular day, we were writing a response to some articles and videos about our science unit on weather. I asked the group to go back to their writing, look for any run-on sentences and use what we just learned to fix them up. And luckily for me, Google drive saves any and all changes the students make, so I was easily able to see if they could apply their learning!

I noticed that this student was able to find some lengthy run-ons and add the correct punctuation! Certainly not perfect, but I was happy to see some transfer into their everyday writing.

Wrap Up
Since this lesson, several of the students in the group have reminded me about their learning and shown me how they are using their new skill in their writing! I'd call that a win!

If you are interested in using this resource in your own classroom, you can check it out on TpT! There is also a Back to School version if that suits your needs! Just click the pictures below.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Sentence-Sort-Activity-Pack-Back-to-School-Theme-2700799?utm_source=craftofteaching.blogspot.com&utm_campaign=Winter%20Sentence%20Blog%20Posthttps://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Winter-Sentence-Activity-Pack-2281319?utm_source=craftofteaching.blogspot.com&utm_campaign=Sentence%20Sort%20Blog%20Post

Happy sorting and happy sentence making!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Things We LOVE Giveaway!

Did you have a nice Valentine's Day? Luckily for me, my 5th grade students decided to have "Electronics Day" instead of a traditional Valentine's Day party, which made the day a little more awesome!

Another awesome thing about Valentine's Day is this amazing giveaway that Kelly at An Apple for the Teacher has put together! We wanted to share some of the Things We LOVE for our classrooms and give YOU an opportunity to win them. Check out each awesome classroom supply below and then enter to WIN!



http://amzn.to/2lnDPGx
Mr. Sketch Markers, anyone? These are my favorite anchor chart markers, by far. They are bright, colorful and they smell great. (Except black. Licorice. BLECH.)

http://amzn.to/2kEt6TM
I refuse to grade unless I have my Flair pens. Actually, I just hate grading. But these pens are fun and that makes me happier when I am grading.

http://amzn.to/2lsrCAm
Does every teacher need his or her own laminator at home? Yes. Really?? Yes, really. It's for all those times when you want to laminate but don't want to stay at school until all hours of the night waiting for the the copy lady to leave and you can laminate all by yourself. You all know what I'm talking about.

http://amzn.to/2lsU71a
These dry erase pockets are such a versatile classroom tool! My kids all have one in their desks and we use them for math all the time. One of my favorites!

http://amzn.to/2lsU71a
What would dry erase pockets be without dry erase markers?? You can really never have too many of these around...I even have a secret stash since we

http://amzn.to/2kHFVgf
This is the BEST paper to print all the wonderful things I find on TpT. I especially love to print task cards and classroom decor! This is also a great way to save on color ink.

http://amzn.to/2kHwzRS
Best. Pencils. Ever. Enough said.

Last, but not least....who couldn't use $50 to clear out their shopping cart on Teachers Pay Teachers??

If this looks like a prize pack that you want to win, check out the giveaway details below and enter to win!



GIVEAWAY DETAILS:  
Prize: Things We LOVE prize pack including: Mr. Sketch Markers, Flair Markers, Personal Laminator, Dry Erase Pockets, Dry Erase Markers, Astrobrights Paper, Ticonderoga Pencils, and a $50 Teachers pay Teachers gift card.
Co-hosts:   An Apple for the Teacher
Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. Giveaway ends 2/21/17 and is open worldwide.
Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media?  Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers!
a Rafflecopter giveaway