Home About Me Math Language Arts Facebook TeachersPayTeachers Email Me Pinterest Image Map

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Back to School Read Alouds

As a long time 5th grade teacher, I have found 5th graders still love to hear read alouds. Most of the class will still come gather on the floor around my chair.
My very first year teaching, while browsing the public library a few days before school started, I found this book on the shelf: The Top 10 Ways to Ruin the First Day of 5th Grade by Ken Derby.  I was intrigued since I was teaching 5th grade and did not really know how I was going to start the year.  I took it home and read the first part- decided it was good to start out the year as a read aloud.  (No, I did not finish reading before I read it aloud to my class. I didn't know any better.)

The kids loved it . . . . . . . 

They could not wait for me to read it each day.
 In fact in the first Scholastic book order the book was there and about 10 students ordered it.  
The book focuses on Anthony Madison, AKA Tony Baloney.   He is obsesses with The Late Show with David Letterman and his Top 10 Lists.  He is a little nervous about going to fifth grade, and his year does not start out so well.  The book is hilarious and the humor would appeal to upper elementary school and middle school. It is a fairly quick read, and I normally finish it during the first week or two of school (depending on how long bus call takes those first few afternoons).
That first year we read the book and I started the students writing a Top 10 list of their own, but I don't think we ever followed through. 
Follow Up Activity
Every year as we are nearing the end of the book I have students brainstorm topics for their own Top 10 Lists.  I tell them it has to be school related.  During the beginning of the year, I always review sentence structure.  The students then write their own Top 10 List.  It makes a great display for our Curriculum Night (an evening a few weeks into school where all the parents come to hear about the class).
The book has since been renamed Top 10 Ways to Ruin the First Day of School.  Amazon: Top 10 Ways to Ruin the First Day of School
What are your favorite books to start the school year?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Interactive Note-taking: One Way to Look at It

Have you heard of Interactive Notebooks or Interactive Note-taking? If you are a teacher in elementary school, I can take a bet that you have heard of them.

A couple of years ago, the school where I work started a new initiative . . . 

And after some changes on my grade level, I was suddenly on the Launch Committee.  I was already behind, and I HATE being behind. After the first all day meeting, I was not at all convinced that this would be the answer to increasing thinking in the classroom. It seemed like just more busy work.  Ahhh . . . . then I was nominated to teach a model lesson for the next go around. I did I survived having 12 teachers, coaches and principals in my room. Through the years I have developed my own version of the system.  

I keep my Interactive Notes in a Composition Notebook.

Here is an overview of some of the important components:

I always have a Table of Contents  at the beginning of each unit.
I have students put a box around the title of each unit.

One other component that I love is mind maps!  My students make a Mind Map as a summarizing tool after we finish a unit. It is shows all of the major concepts in the unit in a visual way.  Students are able to show their creativity in their mind map.
This student made is classification mind map into a tree.  Each branch is one of the major concepts from the unit.  Each branch is an important supporting idea.
 The heart of the interactive note-taking is the left hand vs right hand thinking.
For each science or social studies unit, I give students notes I have written on the topic.  They glue it onto the right hand side.  On the left hand side students create a creative response that shows the main idea of the text on the right.

If you notice on the text on the right hand side there is underlining, boxing, circling and arrows.  Check back next Friday to see how I teach students to mark the text on the right hand side.
This is just one approach to Interactive Notes.  I would love to hear how your teach your students to take notes.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Giveaway coming soon!

Form to Participate in the Giveaway!

The giveaway is closed to participants for TpT-ers.  Be on the look-out for information on how to win the great products that will be included. Coming August 1st.  

I am participating in a Back To School Giveaway soon.  If you are a seller on TpT and would like to participate click on the link above to submit your product. Hope from Teaching with Hope in organizing the giveaway.  She is making it as easy as possible for those of us new to all of this! Check out Hope's Store

If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment and I will try to answer.

If you don't sell on Teacher Pay Teacher, but love free things keep on the look out for details coming soon to win this great giveaway with close to 100 great products all for free!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New things to try for the new year

As a teacher I feel like I am always learning and growing.  Near the end of last school year I found a great new tool for my tool box: Susan Kaplan's Depth and Complexity Icons. Essentially the icons are a visual reminder of different ways to thinking critically about topics.  

Depth Icons: Language of the discipline, Big idea, Details, Patterns, Rules, Trends, Unanswered questions, and Ethics

Complexity Icons: Across the Disciplines, Changes over Time and Multiple Points of View

The icons can be used in any content area or really about any topic. The teacher can put the visual on handouts with questions, on anchor charts in the classroom or on notes given to the students (or really any where in the classroom)-prompting students to think about the topic in in a new way

For instance Popular Music:

  • What patterns are there to what makes a song or an artist popular?
  • What are the current trends in popular music?
  • What kind of language is uses in popular music?
  • How has popular music changed over time?
  • One that is sure to bring up discussion (especially in the Tween and up crowd): Does everyone like the same music? What are the different points of view about current popular music?

The icons can also easily be applied to content areas.

Civil War:

  • What were the big ideas that caused the Civil War?
  • What unanswered questions and problems were left after the end of the Civil War?
  • What were the different perspectives of the North and the South during the Civil War?

To find out more about the icons here are some links:

I dabbled with the icons with my students at the end of the year, and they were excited (well as excited as fifth graders get for any school work in the last 2 weeks of school). I am so excited to start out the year with them this year.

If you would like to use Depth and Complexity Icons with your students check out these posters: 

Since I will be in a new position, I am so excited to start the year. What new are you excited to try out this year?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What is Rigor?

The education field is all about buzzwords. One that is circulating now is RIGOR. What does rigor mean?
According to Merriam-Webster Free Online Dictionary:
         (1) :  harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment 
         (2) :  the quality of being unyielding or inflexible 
         (3) :  severity of life 
Wow, "harsh inflexibility" and "severity of life," that doesn't really sound like anything I want in my classroom? But, the powers that be keep telling us to increase rigor in the classroom

So, what does rigor mean in education? I think rigor is about providing opportunities for every student to be challenged, to be pushed-maybe a little beyond what is comfortable or certainly easy.

Since I currently teach gifted and accelerated courses, this often (really almost always) going beyond age basic textbook.  I love open-ended questions, problem solving, student-centered learning. I also connect as much as I can. 

What do you do 

"Rigor." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 14 June 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rigor>

Thursday, June 5, 2014

And a new teacher blog starts

My Teaching Background

Well, I guess, welcome to my blog. I have been teaching for 9 years now all at the same school.  So far all of that has been in 5th grade. While it has all been in 5th grade, I have taught all sorts of different models: self-contained, trading students with partners, a gifted cluster class, collaboration with EBD special education and a gifted self-contained classroom.  
For most of my years in the classroom, I served the gifted population of students as their classroom teacher- some years they have been pulled out for additional services and sometimes not. I love gifted students! Everyday is an ever changing world with gifted students (like it is with all students).
Now, I am transitioning to a new position within my school- 3rd-5th grade accelerated content teacher.  Right now, I will be teaching 3rd-5th AC Math and a multi-age 4th and 5th grade language arts class (reading and writing), but like all things in teaching that could change.

On a Personal Note

On a personal note I have been married for 17 and half years (wow that seems like a really, really long time).  My husband and I have 2 children: a son who is almost 18 and a 2 year old daughter. My daughter is the only one who will let me post a picture (my husband and son rarely even consent to getting their pictures taken). So here is my crazy 2 year old-  in all her summer glory-(And yes, notice the lovely shag green carpet)