Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tried It Tuesday: Interactive Notebooks

Wow! It's been forever since I linked up with Holly (or tried something new), but I've got something for you today. And, yes, I realize I'm a little behind the trend. Interactive Notebooks!

Last year, our 3rd grade students really struggled with the state reading test, and we have a lot of ground to cover so we can catch up and stay out of the danger zone. So during the big TPT sale over the summer, I bought Erin (Lovin Lit)'s Interactive Notebook set for grades 2-3.

Grades 2-3 ~ Interactive Reading Literature Notebooks *Ele

Y'all, this has been one of the best purchases I've made. It was more than worth the money spent. So far, we have only talked about story elements and retelling/summarizing, but the students can keep up with it and are able to experience success. PLUS this is something we can refer back to all year!

This week, we're working on summarizing a story using "Somebody Wanted But So Then". I read The Story of Ferdinand to them (one of my favorites), and then we filled in the sections together.

Tomorrow, I'm going to have them read another book in pairs and complete a similar graphic organizer. They did well with this one, but I want to see what they can do without my help. We tried this last week with "Beginning, Middle, End", and most of them did just fine.

If you're in the market for a set of notes, I would highly recommend this one. I may even use some of it with my fourth grade students!

Friday, September 26, 2014

My Thoughts on Banned Books

*Note: This actually began as a Facebook post until I realized I had WAY more to say about it.*

So you may have heard that it's banned books week. Actually it's the tail end of it (I'll have to put next year's on my calendar). I've been reading a lot of articles and lists of why different books have been banned and wanted to add my two cents.

I've been teaching for nine years and have been actively reading ever since I learned how. The love for books was instilled in me at a very young age. My dad was an English major in college and read to me from the very beginning. Although I grew up in a Southern Baptist pastor's home in south Mississippi, though, my parents always tried to make sure I understood why they didn't agree with certain beliefs and lifestyles. We talked. I was encouraged to ask questions, and they would answer them to the best of their ability. I remember when "homosexuality" became a hot topic. I'm not exactly sure if I brought it up or not (it was around a presidential debate), but they explained what it was and why the bible says it's wrong. 
(I know that not everyone reading this agrees, and I'm sure some of you are mad that I even added that. Please know that I have given this topic MUCH more thought as I have gotten older and this has continued to become a less popular belief. If you disagree, I would love to have a deeper discussion with you about my beliefs, just not on here. I PROMISE you that I don't hate homosexuals and may even surprise you with some of the thoughts and conclusions that I have come to. Likewise, I am willing to listen to your side of the story.)

As I went to high school and college, I would always joke that everyone kept me sheltered, but that's only half true. Yes, I was kept away from the party scene and was your by-the-book "goody two-shoes", but I knew what was going on. I knew some of my friends drank, were abused, experimented with drugs or sex, etc. I see too many people now that are so scared of their children going off the deep end that they leave them completely ignorant of beliefs, ideas, and hardships that may make them sad or upset. I actually had a parent this week that didn't want her child to read The Whipping Boy because it was too sad, and "fifth grade is so young to even think about beatings". If that's the case, then we should never learn about the Holocaust or September 11 or almost anything else "hard" that happens in history.

The truth of the matter is that life is tough. Our children will grow up (whether we like it or not), and they will experience situations that are uncomfortable or just flat out terrible. It is our job as parents and teachers to prepare them for the real world. This is why I choose some books that may be sad or even terrible. I surely didn't read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, or Where the Red Fern Grows to my students for a good laugh (and yes, I read all of those books as read alouds to 4th graders, some for multiple years). But those book teach important life lessons. They create discussions where students begin to question actions and develop a strong sense of right and wrong.

Do I believe parents should be involved in the final decision of what their child reads? Yes...to a point. Really ask yourself why you don't want your student to read the book. Are they too young for it? Then I would ask why. Is it because it will bring up topics that are inappropriate to dwell on at their age? Then I would probably agree with the parent. I personally don't agree with my students (3rd and 4th grade) reading The Hunger Games and thinking about children killing other children, although I tell them that they can read it IF their parents are okay with it. I would also not want my teenage daughter (if I had one) touching Fifty Shades of Grey AT LEAST until she was married. But if it's something they are already aware of (like war, death, divorce, historical events), then I would maybe read along with them and discuss it. Then if it seems like too much, you can always stop.

Please don't just "go with the flow" and prevent your child from reading just because someone said it was a "bad book". If you did, you probably would have never read Where the Wild Things Are (too scary). And seriously, can you imagine a world without Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Personally, I loved the fact that those terrible kids finally got their "just deserts" (and that is the correct spelling; I looked it up).

What are your thoughts? I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with me.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When Reluctant Readers Finally Find a Book

How many of us have had a student who just can't seem to stick with a book? Like ever? Well, I've had a few, but one has really challenged me.

Rachel (not real name) is a fourth grade tomboy to the core. She's been in the Title I Reading program since Kindergarten, and although she has progressed, she just wouldn't stick with a book. I got her last year, and she changed books faster than some people change lanes in traffic.

I have thrown so many books at her that it's ridiculous. Goosebumps? No. Sports books? Only for a minute. Sharks? Cool. I read five pages. Just last week, we tried Notebook of Doom series (that I specifically bought with her in mind), Bunnicula, and a few books from the library that she checked out and quickly discarded. I've always believed this quote, but I was beginning to feel a little hopeless after more than a year of nothing sticking. Her teacher and I decided we would throw EVERY book we could possibly find at her in hopes of anything catching.

We read to know, Lets take it one step at a time: letters make words, words make sentences, sentences make paragraphs, paragraphs make chapters and chapters make books. So lets start by knowing our letters.

Then, last Friday, she came into my room with a book in hand and a BIG smile on her face. Time Warp Trio.

I met with her for our reading conference and decided not to set a "goal" with her just yet. She's struggled for so long, and I want her goal to be enjoying a book for once. I don't want her to feel like it's work. Especially not right now.

When we were down to ten minutes in the day, I told them to find a stopping point for me to read to them. She asked if she could just keeping reading her book. Of course! I wasn't going to stop her! 

Friday was exciting, but what really told me she was set was when she came back with the book on Monday. Then she was holding another one when she walked into my room the next day. 

I've hardly heard of the books (although I realized that I've heard parts of Da Wild, Da Crazy, Da Vinci, which is part of the set), but you can bet that I was on Amazon, Scholastic, and eBay as soon as I could to get my hands on more of them! She keeps asking for updates when they will be here, and I can't wait either!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Five for Fraturday because you know how it is


It's Friday (well, it was Friday when I started)!! I feel like its been forever since I last linked up, but this was the first week that I was working with kids and really had anything to share. We hit the ground running HARD on Monday, and I've barely had time to catch my breath or take pictures. I have a little over 50 kids on my caseload this year, and it's going to be busy!

We started interactive notebooks in 3rd grade, and I'm so thrilled with how they are going! I'm using Lovin' Lit's pack for grades 2-3. This week was all about story elements. Next week, we're going to practice it and maybe start retelling. I want to take it slow and make sure they get it.

Fourth grade was digging into Author's Purpose a little deeper. I actually used my own product (Going Deeper with Author's Purpose) for this that I created last year. My focus is to have them think past "PIE" and actually look at what is important in the paragraph. Honestly it leans a little more toward theme, but I always ask them to think about what an author would actually say if they were asked why they wrote their book. We used The Indian in the Cupboard to read a small scene (where the cowboy shoots Patrick in the hand) and analyze why the author included that scene. Now I'm having to go back and read it to my small group of 4th graders because I remembered how much I love that book!

Fifth grade continued with the 9/11 theme as we did activities relating to The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. As I said last year, I went WAY more serious with my 9/11 plans on the actual day, but I still love the book and wanted to use it. We used a lesson from Jivey's HUGE "Better than Basal" pack that is AMAZING. I actually need to buy a binder for it because I printed all 300+ pages and then realized I didn't have anything big enough to hold it. But y'all, it is worth it. I didn't have to come up with ANYTHING for this. Jivey had already done all of the work. Plus we were able to work on multiple skills and can spiral with them all year.

Yesterday, we did our first mystery of the year with The Case of the Missing Mascot. The kids had a lot of fun with it and can't wait to try some new ones later on in the year. I did, however, notice a small error on one of the pages, so make sure you download it again (remember, it's FREE!) so it's all fixed. Sorry about that!

The Case of the Missing Mascot - a FREE activity for drawi

Finally, I have a little contest going on my facebook page to win my latest mystery. It hasn't even been posted on TPT yet! Be sure to go check it out because it ends tonight!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Winners and Wordless Wednesday

Hi everyone! I promise I didn't forget about all of those fantastic giveaways. Since they all ended on different days, I let rafflecopter choose them as they ended and emailed all the winners. Still, here is my final list of lucky ladies!

  • Day 1 Pack - Kelly W.
  • Pencil Sharpener - Eilidh H.
  • Day 2 Pack - Claire H.
  • FarFaria App - Caitlyn B. and Heather S.
  • Day 3 Pack - Heather S. (different one)
  • Teacher Tee - Debbie R.
  • Mega Mystery Pack - Nancy F.
  • Teacher Stationary - Terri S.
  • Target Gift Card - Breanne S.
Congrats, ladies! I think I have heard back from all of you already saying that you were getting everything, but please let me know if I missed you somehow.

I'm keeping it simple for the rest and just giving a picture I posted on Instagram yesterday for Transformation Tuesday. This is our school library.

Look at the tops of the shelves. Yes, those are real taxidermied animals, and they are only two of probably 20 that were all around the library. This year, they are gone!

Does your school have anything weird like that?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Scoop

I'm back for week two of Sunday Scoop! This one's going to be short because I also need to start spaghetti so we can cross some of these things off our list.

I'm having writer's block for what to post about on Literacy Land. Tomorrow is my day, and I want to get it finished tonight where I don't have to think about it. Plus I really won't have time to do it tomorrow.
Most of my plans are done, but I need a book to use for author's purpose. Something short, preferably.
We have nothing in our house. Hence the quick spaghetti meal. Actually, I hope we have sauce...I didn't check...

My feed was up to 50something today. I'm down to 18, but I think I'm done for the day. I can't get back in the routine of checking regularly.
Dogs are the worst. I love them, except when I have to vacuum every. other. day.

Redbox has had all these free codes, and we've been enjoying them! Last night, we watched Brave. Today is Muppets Most Wanted. I LOVE the muppets!

How has your Sunday been?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Some (okay, lots of) Product Facelifts

I've been working hard to update products so they all have a cleaner, more uniformed look. It's taken a lot longer than I expected, but it's something I've wanted to do for a while. I've learned a lot in the past 2+ years since I first opened my store, and I want all of my products to reflect that style. So here are some of those products that you may have already purchased and may want to download again.

These two products got a TOTAL overhaul. I just didn't love the look of them (they were some of my earliest) with all the distracting fonts. I'm SO excited how they turned out, and you will definitely want to redownload them. The Bats unit is in my store for $4, but the pumpkins are my freebie. I would love some sweet feedback!

Bats Research Unit

Fall Pumpkins Main Idea and Supporting Details

My literacy units are a growing section, but the covers were all messy and mismatched. I decided to go very simple and was very pleased with how they turned out. If you downloaded these, the only difference is the cover. No big changes here.

The literacy centers now take you all the way through the year, but people had been asking for answer keys since I started them. Now ALL answer keys are included along with the updated look (and some may have a new station added to them)!

And finally, these didn't need updates because they are the most recent, but there is a FIFTH skill pack included in my centers to last all year: Context Clues! It felt like forever to create it, but it's done! Keep your eyes out for more of these to come along!

Sorry for the shameless plug, but I've put a lot of work into them and wanted to share. Next up: Mystery sets!

Treat Cards to the Rescue!

So this isn't teacher-related, but it's something we as teachers (and people who celebrate things and buy cards) can all appreciate! How many times do you rush into the store to find a cute card, only to find that there's nothing good, you already gave that card last year, or you find one and then everyone else bought the same card as you? Yeah, me too. I get so annoyed trying to find something funny but not sappy. I mean, I will spend FOREVER (say it like Sandlot) searching for a great card only to settle eventually on something I don't hate.

Enter Treat.. They are the little sister company of Shutterfly, which I'm sure you've heard of. This site offers a large selection of cards that are not only cute, but you can personalize them! We went to a wedding this weekend, and I found this precious card. I was able to type in their name AND swipe this picture from her FB page to make the perfect little card for them! (And aren't they just the cutest couple?) I was actually excited about the card and a little bummed that I wouldn't see them open it. Oh well, I hope to hear about it!

Oh, that isn't all about Treat. These cards run right around $3.49, which is about the same you would pay in the store. If you have the card sent directly to you, shipping is free. You can also have it mailed to the recipient AND add a gift card if you want. You can also order cards ahead of time and have them sent closer to the date you need I did this for my dad once when I had a code, but it was months before his birthday. I had it sent to me with just enough time to mail it to him so I wouldn't forget. Or you can set up reminders, and Treat will email you about creating cards closer to the date.

If paper cards aren't really your thing, you can send digital versions for $.99! I know I would prefer this because I usually throw out the cards after a while. This is a much cheaper version, but I can still find the same great cards!

They also have gifts and stationary available. I got these cute thank you cards with my name. I'm all about gold right now and thought these were just right. Can't wait to use them!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How I Taught About September 11

This is always a tough day for teachers, and it's getting more strange as the gap between student awareness and our own grows. For a few years now, my students have been post 9/11 babies. They only know what they've heard (and some haven't heard anything). By 5th grade, I think it's important to talk about what happened, even if it's just a little bit, because this had such a HUGE impact on our history and lives today.

Normally (as in the previous eight years I've taught), I read The Man Who Walked Between the Towers to my students.

This is a great option for the faint of heart or younger classes because it's mostly about an exciting event that happened in the 1970s when the towers were being built. I've used it to discuss character traits because it's a biography of a French aerialist who actually tightrope walked between the towers. Very cute story, and it only hints at the towers being gone at the very beginning and end.

I love the story and still may use it. It also has jump-started many great conversations because students will naturally offer some information or questions about the towers. However, this year I decided to go super-serious and hit it hard with a lesson created by Erin (you can find it here - I'm Lovin' Lit). You know I love her stuff and have talked about her before.

Anyway, just a quick overview. Erin included a website to this amazing interactive timeline. Y'all, I had chills when I was checking it out this morning. I literally felt like I was back in high school reliving the day all over again. It has pictures, videos, audio clips, etc.

I printed out Erin's interactive activity for them to follow along, but we were so engrossed in discussion and moving along that we didn't end up filling any of it out. I told them they could take it home to discuss. Here were some interesting points for me:

We had an interesting discovery after the first plane hit the tower when I asked what the people were probably thinking. One boy said they would have thought someone took over the plane and ran it into the building. The other teachers and I had to explain that before September 11, the word "terrorist" wasn't even in our vocabulary. We weren't afraid of things like this and just thought it was an accident until the second plane crashed. It's amazing how perspectives have changed from generation to generation. Although we did agree that if this happened now, we would probably think differently.

The shoes were great for a quick inference practice. I showed each picture and had students discuss what they noticed and what they thought that person had been through. Then I shared what the sidebar said about each survivor.

As I was, they loved the story of Flight 93! It was neat to hear them realize these people were heroes without being told.

This video is what really got me. I was able to show it because the sound wasn't working on our Promethean board, but it does have some language. The yelling...it catches the terror people felt perfectly, but you WILL have chills.

The kids were so engrossed in this lesson that they didn't even realize it was time for recess. I had them completely captivated with many questions we didn't even get to address for an entire hour and 15 minutes. We didn't write anything. We didn't even have a "formal" lesson plan. But I think it was great for awareness, questioning, and discussion.

It was probably one of the hardest lessons I've ever taught, but I think I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Scoop

The Teaching Trio started a new linky party today that's especially great for those of us who need a little more organization in our lives. It's pretty self-explanatory, so I'll just go on with it. Click on the picture to link up!

Our house hasn't recovered completely from us going back to work. Of course, I could be cleaning right now...
I finally got individual results for all the kids who failed last year's SOL (well, for one grade - my biggest case-load), but unfortunately similar items aren't already grouped. I need to sit down and sort them, then I have to make lists of students who struggled with each skill so we can start creating groups based on that. It's going to take a while. I probably should have brought it home to work on this weekend, but I didn't.
I can't pull kids until I have the forms, so this is important. But I also don't want the forms to get lost in the mass of paperwork that goes home on the first week. They'll go out tomorrow, and hopefully I can start with most, if not all, of my kids by next week!

I've only read The Giver once a few years ago, and I wasn't quite prepared for it. I actually didn't like it, but I'm pretty sure I will this time around, especially with Hunger Games and Divergent. I brought it home and just need to find the free time.
Yes, I want to watch football while my boys (including the hubs) sleep. Steven isn't really a sports fan, and Keagan is 2. I love football, so it will be fun to watch while I clean and do other things!

I did a summer committee for the state back at the end of July, but it takes about 4-6 weeks to get the paychecks in the mail. Mine came in earlier this week, so I have some extra play money after we split most of it into savings and debt-reduction. There are so many "wants", though, that I need to prioritize and price-check to determine the best way to spend it. It's burning a hole in my pocket!

As far as giveaways go, check my past few posts to enter for one of MANY prizes in my 1000 follower giveaway. Day 1's giveaway ends tomorrow night, and then they will all start closing out at midnight each day. Hurry before you miss your chance!

My BBB (Best Blogging Buddy) Andrea is celebrating 1500 followers today also, so go check hers out if you didn't get enough of your fill with my giveaways. Plus she's awesome and you'll love her, too!

And finally, I'm helping Kelly celebrate 700 followers. Who doesn't "need" an extra $25 to spend on TPT? Plus the list of products being donated is quite impressive!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

1000 Follower Giveaway: Day 5

Today is the LAST day of new prizes for my giveaway, although you can still enter up to one week after each one opened. I have one more prize today, but I wanted to give you something that everyone could enjoy.

After reading comments yesterday on mystery recommendations, I saw that a few of you had the same thought that I did - I need something sports related.

I don't know about you, but one of my favorite things about fall is college football! I actually go outside on certain fall days (or even this afternoon) and think, "This is football weather!" I decided to make a freebie related to the best sport, although I think this is one that many of your kids can enjoy. Who doesn't like a story focused on the mascot?

The Case of the Missing Mascot - a FREE activity for drawi

Enjoy your freebie, and PLEASE leave me some sweet feedback!

For this final freebie, I want you to pin my freebie (you can just hover over the image and click on my pin it button) mentioning in the comment that it is FREE and then copy the link to paste into my rafflecopter. That's it! Just be sure that the pin shows my freebie, NOT the giveaway button. The winner will receive a $25 gift card to my favorite store, Target! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 5, 2014

1000 Follower Giveaway: Day 4

Have you been enjoying this giveaway as much as I have? I feel like Santa, and I can't wait to pick some winners and actually send some goodies your way!

Before we begin talking about prizes, I want to remind you that today is the LAST day of my TPT sale, so go check it out! I also have been very busy updating products to have a cleaner look that matches some of my most recent items. If you have purchased anything from me, you might want to check it and re-download. ALL of my Literature units and Fall items have been updated, and I will have most, if not all, of my Literacy Centers completed by the end of the day!

Today's first prize is all from me. I posted my Mega Mysteries Pack over the summer, which is a bundle of all nine cases that I've created so far. It's priced at $30 regularly in my store (or $24 today before my sale expires at midnight), but I'm going to have TWO winners who will get it all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The next giveaway item comes from an adorable little etsy shop based out of Charlottesville, VS called Juju Monkee! She does the cutest stationary sets, and she's super sweet, too! Check out her teacher sets.

Aren't they cute? What's even better is that Julie is donating a set of the chalkboard stationary to one of my lucky readers! Will it be you?

This giveaway is open to US residents only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check out my giveaways from the past three days for even more chances to win!