Sunday, September 29, 2013

Halloween Must Read Mentor Text: The Widow's Broom

I was so excited to see that the topic for today's must read was Halloween/Fall because there are SO many fantastic books! I saw that Amanda and Stacia already wrote about Stellaluna, one of my favorites, but fortunately I had already planned on a different one for this week.

I have become a big fan of Chris Van Allsburg in the past few years because his books are great for older kids, and they usually haven't already heard them when they come to me.

This particular story is about a witch's broom that loses its magic and falls from the sky. A widow finds the broom and begins to use it, but one day she wakes up to learn it is no ordinary broom. They begin to keep each other company, and she trains the broom to help her with everyday chores. When the neighbors learn of the broom's unusual powers, they get scared and demand that it be burned.

I think this book is a neat way to remind students that "different" doesn't necessarily mean bad. Allsburg did a fantastic job of portraying a difficult subject that has been repeated multiple times in history. This could lead into a comparison lesson for older students with other "misunderstood" groups who were persecuted in various ways. However, it's also a great story for the younger ones to lead discussions in how to treat others fairly.

I also used this book to work on predicting last year. We would change our predictions as we read and learned more information. It has been almost a year since I did this, but I also believe that we practiced questioning with this book. There are SO many questions that they students will have as they read, so I will be doing that this year for sure!

One quick word of caution: please read the book ahead of time, especially if you teach early elementary. The story is a little scary, and you need to make sure it's one that you and your students will be comfortable reading. As an upper grades teacher, my students and I love it. However, I've seen mixed reviews on whether it should be read to K and 1.

Now I can't wait for Keagan to wake up. We're headed to the state fair! It will be his first trip, and I can't wait to see how much he enjoys it!

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Five for Friday you DON'T want to miss!


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Word Wizard chart in portrait or landscape (I used borders from Bubbly Borders and More and fonts from Kimberly Gershwin)

I mentioned in my post on Wednesday about how I'm focusing on Robust Vocabulary this year. Long story short, I give each group three vocabulary words for the week, and then encourage them to go out and find examples of the words being used at home. They collect those examples on a very simple recording sheet here and bring it back on Friday. Then I will put a star or sticker by their name. Once students get 5, they get to choose a prize from my box!

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This may seem small, but one of my students noticed that my skittle jar was running low and decided to bring in a bag to refill it. Bonus: the green are back to LIME instead of green apple. My day was made!

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On Fridays, we have game/review day. This is one of my favorite games because the words are higher level. Unfortunately it's too high for half of my kids, but I pulled it out for my higher 4th and 5th grade students. Notice a theme here?

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Sometimes I do brain breaks before the students leave, and I recently added a few to my Pinterest board. One of my favorite new ones...

Hehe, I almost took video of my kids doing it. Hysterical! You can follow my board here. I also have "What Does the Fox Say?" which I highly recommend for a good laugh!

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To celebrate surpassing 500 followers a while back, my Halloween Literacy Pack will be free for the next hour (or until I have a chance to get home and to a computer). Go grab it and be sure to leave feedback!

The time has now passed for the flash freebie, but you can still click on the link to add it to your cart!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Going Deeper with Author's Purpose

I mentioned last week that we have been working on Author's Purpose with my fourth grade students. This is a subject that I don't think we teach properly the majority of the time. There seems to be way too much focus on PIE (Persuade, Inform, and Entertain), and not enough focus on how the author is thinking. Trust me, I've looked all over TPT, and most of the higher level Author's Purpose is either pretty expensive or geared toward older students (middle/high school).

So as I've been teaching this unit, I've been creating new resources to go along with it. I posted a picture last week of the graphic organizer I created to prove the author's purpose

We practiced this with various short books, and I feel like the kids started to understand it a little more. I also had an "Ask the Author" sheet where students buddy read and then interviewed each other (one pretending to be the author) to get them thinking like an author.

However, I noticed that our standards focus more on author's message. So this week, we are reading selections and talking about why an author might have included particular pages or even paragraphs. Today was the first day I set them off to do some practice on their own, and it didn't go very well. BUT, at least they tried and we can talk about why they are not correct. Many of them wanted to just restate the paragraphs.

I plan on creating more practice sections to add to this packet, but you can get it now for $2! After I finish, the price may go up some more.


I hope it helps your students "Dig Deeper" and start thinking more like authors! We will be working on this in 3rd and 5th in the next few weeks, so I'm hoping to gather as much as I can to help them understand author's purpose on a higher level.

Oh, my newest literacy centers are in the proofreading stage as we speak!

I'm going to do a flash freebie when I post them tomorrow afternoon (Hint: I leave school at 4), so pay close attention! This will be a long overdue celebration of my surpassing 500 followers, and you won't want to miss it!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Robust Vocabulary

Sorry, no pictures today, but I wanted to share about something I'm starting with my kids this year. It will tie into my writing instruction, so I'm also linking up with Jivey for her Workshop Wednesday.

 You may remember a while back that I bought this book after having it recommended by another 5th grade teacher as "the best" for vocabulary instruction. I have to say, so far I'm liking what I'm reading!

Vocabulary is SUCH a huge weakness overall at our school, and I want to be more purposeful in my instruction. Admittedly, the beginning of the school year hit me like a freight train, so I've only made it about 40 pages into the book, but I took one idea away from the very beginning and have already started implementing it with each of my groups.

Beck talks about Tier 1, 2, and 3 words. Tier 1 are the words that students already know and/or are very easy to understand (dog, school, jump, etc). Tier 3 words are words that are not used by the average person. Many of them are area specific (isotope, chlorophyll), and we learn them for a time when we have to at school and then forget them unless it's a part of our profession. For vocabulary instruction, we should focus on Tier 2 words - words that expand students vocabulary and are found more frequently in books and/or everyday conversation. Examples of these words would be things like considerate, adapt, industrious, etc.

How am I teaching these words? First, I'm making a more conscious effort to not water down my vocabulary when I'm teaching. Yesterday, I used words like "benefits", "penalize", and "perks" to discuss my homework assignment. It was neat to see the students tuning in and having to use their context clues to figure out what I meant, but if I keep using words like that, they will get it!

Yes, you read that correctly. I'm assigning OPTIONAL HOMEWORK to all of my students (since I'm only a pull-out program and not their regular teacher). I can't even believe it, but that's why I'm stressing the OPTIONAL part. Each group has three vocabulary words for the week. I'm introducing the new words on Monday and we discuss the meaning and some examples of how these words are used in sentences. Then they have a challenge (the homework assignment): I give them a "Word Wizard" sheet with three columns. They are to go home and look/listen for the words being used (tv, newspaper, internet, conversations, books). Then they can write or glue these sentences on the paper. Any students who turn the sheet in at the end of the week gets a star for their chart (I haven't created it yet, but I'll share when I do). Once they have 5 stars, they will earn a prize!

So, what are some words I'm using this week? Since my 3rd and 5th were focusing on character traits, I chose mainly characteristics. I also paid attention to words they didn't seem to understand and may have already had an interest in.

3rd grade - adapt (Ecosystems tie-in), patient, and pleasant.
4th grade - outgoing, courageous, and amusing
5th grade - humble (they really wanted to know what this meant), eager, and considerate

Okay, I know that was a lot of rambling. There was more to explain than I thought! I hope it helps, and I will share my "Word Wizard" sheet later. Right now, it needs a few tweaks!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Must Read Mentor Text: The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963

Did you almost fall out of your chair? I know! I can barely believe I'm actually posting two days in a row. Truth is, Keagan is taking an exceptionally long nap, and I really like Amanda and Stacia's linky but never have a chance to link up. Plus I had already gotten to a good stopping point in my book when I thought I heard Keagan over an hour ago.

This week is all about Social Studies texts, and the only one I've had a chance to use so far was already taken (The Man Who Walked Between the Towers), so I started racking my brain for ones that I may use right now. Then I remembered how Erin had shared about this being the 50th anniversary of the church bombing in Birmingham. One of my favorite books for Black History month has always been The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963.

It's funny (for the majority of the book), relatable, and just perfectly written! I fall in love with it over and over again every time I read it. If you aren't familiar with it already, the story begins in Flint, Michigan with a family who is struggling to keep their oldest son under control. He pushes one too many buttons, and mama decides it's time to go to Alabama so grandma can straighten him out. Of course, life in Birmingham is ENTIRELY different from what they have grown up knowing, and the entire family is shaken to the core.

I have used this book to model vivid details because the way the author writes makes it so easy to feel like you're there. When I had to put together a text set for college, this was actually one of my books included for Sensory Details.

I would also use this book to discuss how characters change over time. The two brothers both experience significant changes, and it would also be interesting to compare them.

If you're really interested in this book, Hallmark JUST released a movie version that aired last weekend. I haven't seen it yet because (1). I don't have cable anymore and (2). I forgot. However, I will be searching for it because it's on my must see list. It's the perfect book to bring to life!

Now, click on the image at the top to see what other books people are using. Then link up and join the fun!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Five for Fraturday again

Whew! I am officially back to teaching now, and it was tiring! I feel like I came home every night and just crashed. Eventually, I'll get back into the swing of things.

First, I FINALLY got a new phone!! My old one was terrible and had this HUGE crack in it. I seriously was a walking T-Mobile commercial.

As much as I would LOVE to join the iPhone club, we didn't want to upgrade our contract because we currently get unlimited everything for $99, which you can't beat. So I checked Ntelos's stock of refurbished phones. I'm VERY happy with my HTC One V, and after browsing Etsy, I also found a store that does personalized cases for it. So that's already on my Christmas list :-). Now I'm just impatiently stalking A Beautiful Mess for their Android app that's supposed to come out next month sometime!

My fourth graders were working on Author's Purpose this week, so I created a little evidence sheet (Don't you love the Melonheadz clipart in the corner? My score from Educents last week!) to record information from the text. I think we've focused too much on just Persuade, Inform, and Entertain in the past, but that's RARELY how it's tested. Next week, I'm going to focus on the purpose of individual sections/paragraphs.

With third and fifth grade, we have been working on character traits. We read a few different books with big characters (Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon, Alice the Fairy, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and Ferdinand), and I had students use my Duck Dynasty sheets I shared about last week to choose some traits and prove it with evidence from the text. 


They had a lot of fun, but I noticed how limited their vocabulary is. I gave my fifth graders a list of traits and had them put stars by any they hadn't heard before. It was enlightening. Humble is going to be one of my focus words. Not a single student knew it, and they were all very interested to learn it!

On Thursday, my new linky started! I'm going to host Teacher Fitness Thursday on the third Thursday of each month, and we'll have a different topic every time. For the first month, we are sharing about healthy eating - tips, recipes, struggles, what's in your choose! I would love to see a lot of you join in.

This weekend is Mommy and Keagan time, and we're really enjoying it! The weather has been great here (although it's starting to rain), so we have spent a lot of time outside. This morning, we went to a local produce stand with some friends to play in their hay maze!

Next week, we might even go apple picking! It would be nice to go when it's not so crowded. Of course, the state fair starts next Thursday, so we have to work that in at some point, too!

Okay, my goal for next week is to blog more frequently. I know it most likely won't be every day, especially because we only have one laptop for the house and Steven is teaching an online college class this semester. However, I need to take the computer anyway so I can work on finishing my Halloween Literacy Pack. We finally installed the new Microsoft Office, so I have a lot of work to do!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Teacher Fitness Thursday - Eating Healthy

Hey yall! I'm so excited to kick off my very first week of Teacher Fitness Thursday! This will be a MONTHLY linky party starting on the third Thursday of each month and remaining open for the rest of the month. Each month, we will focus on a new topic for how to stay fit.

This month's topic is eating healthy. Feel free to link up with a story, what's inside your lunchbox, a recipe, or just some tips! There's a few different ways you can go with this. Mine is a combo of my story (especially with this being week 1) and a few tips for eating healthy!


Before I got pregnant, food was never an issue for me. My metabolism took care of everything! I mean, it slowed down some when I went off to college and was eating more frequently, but it didn't take a lot of work to get it back off. A few days of being sick and I was right back in the game! I actually weighed 95 lbs before I got pregnant (I know some of you are sick reading this, but bear with me), but I never worked out or tried to eat healthy.

When I got pregnant, I still ate what I wanted and actually brought a pair of regular jeans with me to the hospital thinking I may go home in them. Boy was I wrong! I had gained close to 50 pounds during my pregnancy, and I only lost 11 naturally by my 6 week check-up. I knew it was time to do something!

So I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app on my phone and started tracking calories. It was really hard at first because my portions had grown immensely while I was pregnant, and I had to scale back a little at a time. For a while, I just focused on eating as close to 1200 calories as possible - forget that 500 may have been from one slice of Chocolate Creme Pie. That still worked for the first month, but after that I HAD to change things up.

I pinned a million things on my Pinterest board every day, but one of my favorite weight-loss pins is from Bob Harper. The link was broken, but the picture is all you really need!

I liked that this list was very specific with the rules. I don't follow every single one of these and I don't do them all the time, but it helps to have them in the back of my mind and take a few of them to heart. For me, I started with not drinking my calories (water only MOST of the time), going to bed hungry (I read somewhere that you shouldn't eat 3 hours before you go to bed, so 7:00 is my cut-off time), planning my splurge meal (although I usually just have one and say "That will be my splurge for the week!", and I TRY to eat my carbs before I leave school - so as close to lunch as possible. This actually means that I usually try to do my dessert with lunch instead of dinner. For dinner, I try to stick with veggies and a meat. This is a little harder now because my husband does not need to lose any more weight and has to have heartier meals now, but I stick with it pretty well for the most time.

What do you do to eat healthy?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Five for Friday

I skipped Five for Friday last week because my first few weeks back at school are pretty boring in comparison to everyone else. Since I am Title I, students have to send back forms to receive services, and then I can start pulling students. Monday will be my first day to pull groups, and I can't wait!

Tuesday night was our Back to School night, so I was at school for a little over 12 hours (well, with the exception of a yogurt run before dinner with my preggo friend who was craving something sweet). The sad thing about Back to School night for me is that nobody really comes to see me anymore. I mean, I was able to get some work done and all, but the parents are there to meet with the classroom teachers. I get a little bored.

Fortunately (maybe) I had work to do because I had received a question from one of my TPT buyers that she could not open my flipcharts for Science because she doesn't have a Promethean board. Was I wrong to assume that the section "Smartboard Lessons and Whiteboard Activities" was for Promethean as well? Please let me know if you think so because I will remove that. Anyway, I ended up spending THREE HOURS copying and pasting all 7 science units that I no longer teacher into PowerPoint so she could use them. Let's just say that I'm not a huge fan of science and seriously considered just taking them off of TPT completely.
I've been pushing into all of the fourth grade classes already because there are SEVENTEEN kids in that grade who did not pass their Reading SOL last year. Part of this is because it was a new test and written much more difficult, but I have 2-5 students that I will be seeing in EACH class. This week, we were focusing on Context Clues, so I pulled out this book:

I wanted to do a lot of practice with the students, so I had them come to the carpet. As we came to a word that was unfamiliar or used in an unusual way, I read the text and then had them turn to a partner to discuss what it might mean. They had to talk about what clues in the pictures or text helped them understand. Then we discussed it as a group, and I made sure to repeat the word and definition a few times. It was a really good lesson! 

I've been preparing for next week, and my other two grades will be working on Character. For fifth grade, I really wanted to dig deep and challenge them. I looked on TPT and found some good resources, but nothing was quite what I wanted (or it was too much to work with in one case). So I decided to create my own resource! And why not use my Duck Dynasty clipart that I'm loving?

TPT (finally up!) or TN

I'm also trying to choose my vocabulary words for the first week with students. I found this list of Character Traits from Read*Write*Think, and then I sat with my para to decide which words the students already knew well (dangerous, bad, nice) or could figure out with ease (brainy, messy). Then I started thinking about which words students would see most frequently and need the most. I think for fifth grade, we're going to focus on considerate, eager, and strict. When I choose books for examples, I will try to find some that show these traits. I'm thinking Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. Any other suggestions?

I'm loving my new design that Megan did for me this week! I chose the Modern and Fresh Build your Blog pack from A Bird in Hand Designs (very affordable), and I also got matching papers to use for giveaways, etc. Well, I have been thinking about starting a linky for teachers who are trying to lose weight/stay healthy. I made this button and will be starting the linky next Thursday. 

This will be a monthly link-up (the THIRD THURSDAY) with a different topic each month. Next week will be all about eating healthy. Spread the word, prepare your post, and I hope to see a lot of people link up! It will be neat to build a support group for each other!