Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Main Idea Testing Tip

Man, it was crazy today at school! We had class pictures, and the schedule ended up getting so far behind. I didn't even get to work with my 3rd graders, and I won't have them tomorrow because they'll be on a field trip. The good news was that it gave me more time to work on and finish my progress reports since they go home with report cards tomorrow and I may have completely ignored them over spring break.

I'm actually blogging over at Literacy Land today with a great trick for main idea questions. It's short and simple, just how I like things!

Then be sure to stop by Bex's blog (a fellow Literacy Land blogger) to celebrate her recent milestones with a giveaway! I'm in the winner's choice pack, and I think I'll be entering for a new pencil sharpener as well :-)

Monday, April 21, 2014


Wow, that was TOUGH staying away from blogging entirely (especially going into Bloglovin once a week to mark almost 200 posts as read without even glimpsing at the titles), but I can definitely say that I am refreshed and ready to go!

Today was our first day back from Spring Break, and it's crunch time for us. We have 3 1/2 weeks before SOL testing begins, and there are only 8 1/2 weeks left of school. Eek!! I have so much left to teach and review!

Right now, I'm working on context clues with my 3rd and 4th grade students. I bought this book a few years back, and it's great! The book focuses on eight different strategies to help, so I went through and made copies of the ones my students tend to struggle with the most. They have already shown some growth, but we still need to practice a LOT.

Using Context Clues To Help Kids Tackle Unfamiliar Words

In 5th grade, I began a poetry/figurative language focus before break. I bought Kathleen's (Middle Grades Maven) Poetry Analysis booklet that has been the perfect review. The kids are really enjoying the poems, which are just the right level for them. And the questions really get them to think more in-depth about what the poem is trying to say. They still can't label most of the figurative language on their own, but I'm just excited that they can usually explain what the author meant by it!

Poetry Analysis Booklet

On the blogging end, I'm going to start getting everything ready for my big giveaway (right now I'm sitting at 850 followers - wow!) and hope to post it by the weekend. I've already got some amazing blogger friends signed up to help, but if you would like to join me in the celebration, the form is here. I will, of course, list your blog and hopefully send some new followers your way!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Taking a Break, But A Giveaway is Coming!

I'm not Catholic, but I started kind of participating in Lent during high school just to see if I could give up chocolate for that long (nowhere near the right reason, I know). I kept it up through college with similar things: coke, Chick-fil-A, or something that might save me a few dollars but wasn't TOO crazy or life-changing. But I've been thinking about it this week and really trying to consider something that takes me away from things that matter more. And when I'm really honest with myself, it's blogging. I may not post every day, but I do spend a LOT of time reading other blogs. I enjoy these things and think they have helped me become a better teacher. I have made some great friends and connections across the country, and my Pinterest boards are filled to the brim with amazing ideas that I can/have/will use in my classroom.

However, I've decided to take that time and spend it becoming more intentional building relationships with the people physically surrounding me during the remainder of Lent (I know I'm a few days late). My husband and I started attending a new church over the summer, and we talk a LOT about being intentional with our relationships and bringing people to Christ. I have friends and talk to my co-workers and neighbors about going to church occasionally, but I can't honestly say that I'm doing my best to make sure they are Christians and understand how much God loves us and what He did for us. Now's the time.

I know that I passed 800 followers this weekend (that was an exciting email from Bloglovin!), and I thought about throwing a giveaway before I took my break. But I decided that I would hold it after and just gather support with a simple Google form. If you would be interested/willing to donate to my giveaway, I would LOVE to have you! It's been a little while since I've done one, and I want to make this a BIG giveaway!

In the meanwhile, don't forget to check out Erin's big giveaway going on all week! I know that's where my most recent surge of followers came from after I donated a product yesterday!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

More Snow and my Favorite Picture Books

I'm finally back at school today (although on a 2 hr delay) after more crazy Virginia weather.

Seriously, the temps on Monday reached 70 (at one point, I changed into shorts). Then it snowed the next day non-stop from 8-5ish. We ended up with about 5 inches of snow and our 8th/9th snow day for teachers (10th and 11th for kids). Eek!! I'm so grateful that our 5th grade students aren't taking the writing SOL until April because some schools have it next week. Yes, they should be prepared already, but it's a little stressful to be out unexpectedly right before a big test like that.

Anyway, I wanted to share about a few picture books that I've bought recently and can't wait to use!

The Wreck of the Zephyr by Chris Van Allsburg has been a book I've had my eye on for about 3 years now. When I was in my Master's program, one of our teachers did a lesson using this book, and I was mesmerized! It's great for predicting and questioning, and, as usual, the pictures are BEAUTIFUL! I've become a huge fan of his books, and this one may possibly be my favorite!

I laughed about this book because I found it through amazon suggestions and was drawn in by the description alone. Then just after I got it in the mail, Collaboration Cuties blogged about how they use the book during one of their Mentor Text linkies! I've already bought their resource and can't wait to use it. Redcoats and Petticoats is based on a true story about a family on Long Island who served as spies for the Revolutionary Army. VERY fun!

I've been reading about this book on SO many blogs and finally caved in. Too cute! I read it to Keagan, and he was completely taken in. Usually he gets really fidgety and wants to turn the pages before I finish. Not this one! He loved the beautiful pictures, and the language was perfect! I could see this being great for teaching a lesson on word choice in writing.

And for a little fun, go check out my friend, Courtney, and her blogiversary giveaway. Erin Condren? Yes, please!! I can't afford it on my own!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Writing Tips: Part 2

I'm blogging over at Adventures in Literacy Land today about the second part of my sentence fluency lesson. If you're looking for tips on teaching writing, you won't want to miss this!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Currently March - PTL!!

February has come and gone!! Have I ever mentioned that it's my least favorite month? I know it's the shortest and there are a lot of fun holidays to celebrate, but I'm usually DONE with being cold by now and sick of being cooped up in the house when the sun goes down way too early. I live for longer days, warmer weather, and spring/summer clothes! Plus now that Keagan is older, we can enjoy more time outside on the playground or letting him ride his tricycle while we relax and talk to our neighbors.

Keagan was in a bit of a mood this morning, so I was glad that he went down for his nap easily. Unfortunately, I had a lot to do around the house and may not get a chance to watch another episode of Downton Abbey before he wakes up. We're going to try though! I have to watch them on my Kindle because the HDMI cord I bought to hook it up to the TV didn't work (apparently my TV isn't "HD" enough or something?). Anyway, I've only got 2 episodes left in Season 1, but I'm SO hooked!

I think I mentioned last month that my sister is having a little girl. Her due date was yesterday, but I've had my phone close by since last Thursday waiting to hear the news. She's in Mississippi, so I won't see the baby for another month (I'm going for a weekend April 3...not that I'm counting down...), but I'm still ready! I want pictures!!

Yeah, I feel like I've mentioned getting back on track every month since November. This month I really want to get motivated, though, because June is just around the corner and I need to do some toning! I'm going to try working out at night instead of in the mornings. We'll see if that helps.

Did you guess my question? "What is your favorite vacation spot?" I can't choose between the two!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Workshop Wednesday: Writing Tips

 Workshop Wednesday: Writing Tips

Wow, it's been a LONG time since I've been able to link up with Jivey (which is sad because she has SO many great ideas and has become one of my go-to people), but I really wanted to make sure I joined in this week for some writing tips.

I'm not sure about you, but writing is something I've always struggled to teach. I love doing it and actually wanted to be an author growing up (still do), but it's SO scary to teach. Plus, when I was in 4th grade and we didn't have a writing SOL, it was one of the first things that I cut ::hangs head in shame:: because of time. Now that I'm the reading specialist, I don't get as much of a chance to do writing. HOWEVER, I now work with 5th grade students who DO have a writing SOL, and it's coming up quickly. Eeek!! So I have been working writing practice in to help them get there, especially since we've lost a lot of days because of snow.

Long story short, I want to share a quick little tip that I will be going more in depth with next week, so stay tuned! We had this FABULOUS speaker, Fred Wolff, come to our school over the summer and again last week to share some great ideas and lessons for Six Traits Writing that we just implemented in our school. When he came last week, he actually taught a lesson in each grade level, and the teachers observed the lessons. I got to see the 5th grade lesson on sentence fluency, and it was FANTASTIC! So simple, but the students were engaged the entire time.

Like I said, though, I will share more next week. Today I want to give my quick tip. Fred read one page from Harris and Me (the scene with the pancakes, if you're familiar with the book).

Students just listened the first time. It's a GREAT excerpt to teach "exploding the moment" as well, and he did that with us over the summer. It made me want to read the book (but I haven't had a chance yet). Anyway, after we heard it once, he read it again and had us stop him after the first word in each sentence. One student wrote them on the board. We discussed how his beginnings were varied and circled some words that students didn't usually use for beginnings (with, in, etc). Then he gave the kids 5 "power" words to start sentences. I don't remember them exactly, but these are the five that I've been using with my kids:

He suggested as young as 1st grade having a "When Week", where students create tons of sentences starting with "when". Then go through each word doing the same thing. Already, I've noticed that my students are beginning to think outside of the box instead of starting every sentence with "I" or "The"!

What's your writing tip?