How To: Class Discussions {Freebie included!}

Monday, December 14, 2015
Organizing whole class, and small group discussions are always fun for me! I love when my students do the heavy lifting and talk to EACH OTHER instead of just talking to me.

I had my students read the book, "Smoky Night" by Eve Bunting and after reading it whole group, I had them get together and discuss the book. I gave them questions prior to the discussion and the rubric so that they are fully aware of the expectations.

Big Idea: "How do characters change?"
(This was our main question)
Using the book, "Smoky Night" by Eve Bunting.

I always like having my students have a copy of the text to refer back to, because after all we want them to REFER back to the text during their discussions. For this particular lesson, I was very lucky to find just the text for this book and hand that out to my students. Click here to download the text for this book.

Not only does this save paper, but it also puts the whole book on only a few pages! Sometimes, I just type out the story, or google the book to see if I can find just the text.

After reading the story, I broke my students into groups. Each group member had a different question prompt, to get each students thinking about a different character and how they changed throughout the story. My students had about 15 minutes to answer their prompt in their reading journals.

After their silent jot, I had the small groups discuss with each other their answers using the discussion rubric. This was really a practice round for the whole class discussion. The next day (since I only have 45 minute periods) my students reread their answers and had a whole class discussion about the characters in "Smoky Night" and how they changed throughout the story.

Click Here to Download this Freebie!

After the students talked about the characters in the story, they returned to their seats (I had them on the rug for this discussion). Each student had two stickies in their reading journals.

1. What is the most interesting thing someone said or mentioned?
2. Using the rubric, rate yourself 1, 2, 3, 4

For a copy of the sticky labels (printed on address labels) click here!

I love when my students reflect on their conversational skills, because sometimes they are brutally honest and other times they are very generous with their self scoring. I had a good variety of self assessment, from 1 through 4 with many of my students marking themselves a 3. 

There are many things I want to improve for our next conversation, including some exemplar videos or responses, but in the end I was so proud of my students and their higher level thinking skills! 

December Pinterest Picks {Linky Party!}

Thursday, December 3, 2015
December is here! I love this month because not only is it the holidays BUT also our school is just so beautifully decorated and the kids and faculty alike are in great moods.  I am linking up again with Pawsitively Teaching and the Inspired Owl's Corner  for December's Pinterest Top Picks. 
Let's Do This! 

How cute is this! I am planning on doing an activity very similar to this, just including a short writing about what they are looking forward to this holiday. If you love this as much as I do, the template for this can be found over at Surfin' in Second Grade

 It wouldn't be fair to go the whole month without watching the Polar Express while drinking hot chocolate right? In this ADORABLE pack, I could make the movie a bit more educational and still enjoy the holiday spirit. Check this out {for FREE} by clicking here.

Next up......
Don't these look good enough to eat!?!? I'll have to pick up some play dough ASAP to make these cute decorations and ornaments in my classroom. My students are going to have so much fun making these! For the recipe and idea, check out 123homeschool4me

I am really starting to get into the spirit of Christmas and the holidays! I can't wait to post the photos of my Christmas/Hanukkah decor that my students picked out... Stay tuned! 

If you have ANY cute ideas for the holidays, please let me know down below I am scrabbling to bring in the holiday spirit. Thanks! 

December Currently!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015
It's a new month already! Wow... how the time has flown by. I cannot believe December is here and the holiday season has begun. I am linking up again with Oh' Boy 4th Grade for this month's currently.

Here we go...

I am totally in the holiday spirit, my tree is up and my christmas station on pandora is going strong. I'll get sick of the Christmas music in..... let's say two week. Until then, I'm 100% on board with the holidays this year.

I picked up scarves for my nieces on Black Friday, and let's say I'll have to buy them something else. I couldn't help myself and wore them to work. It's ok though, it was just a small gift and I'll buy them something nicer.

I am very fortunate that December 18th is my last day before winter break. I cannot wait to have a few days off prior to Christmas to do last minute shopping and wrapping. My current mantra is "three more weeks!"

I desperately want new boots. My beautiful black boots I bought years ago seem to have a pin hole in the sole. When I walk in rain, my socks immediately get soaked. It's time for new boots, Marshalls here I come.

I need a star to go on top of my Christmas tree! We put it up two days after Thanksgiving and it was the first year that my son helped me decorate the tree. He's three now and it was definitely an adorable moment and he only broke two ornaments in the process. I call that a win.

Speaking of trees, my tree is a faux! We bought it on Black Friday for a great price and it looks amazing. I love the smell of a real tree, but I just don't like cleaning up after one. Plus, now I have a tree for as many years as I want.

I hope everyone  has a wonderful holiday!

Reading and Writing Goals {Pictures Included!}

Monday, November 30, 2015
I know I'm totally late, but Happy Thanksgiving everyone! It has been a crazy month, and I even got a new student today so I have been a bit scattered. I took these photos ages ago and now I am finally getting around to putting this post up. 

I love visual goal setting. Just throwing it out there... I am a huge fan of students having flexible, attainable goals to continue to go back to when working on their ELA skills. I honestly cannot remember where I found this on Pinterest, BUT it is genius! On my Workshop board, which includes Reader's and Writer's Workshop, I have our current novel. Along with the novel cover, I have a quote from the author and a photo, and other books by the author. My students love the display and even look through the library to find other books by our current author.

As you can see, we have writing goals and reading goals. The goals themselves are flexible and change when the students have mastered them. Also, my students have their name on a pencil or a book that can be easily changed when the move onto another goal. I have a wide variety of writers and readers and this display is great because it shows that everyone has something to work on. Goals range from simple editing to adding details for writing, and fluency to annotating in reading. I also enjoy not have to swap out my bulletin board as often since these are skills we are working on long term. 

How do you track goals? Are they displayed or private? 

In other news.... I got the new Keurig 3.0 machine! It was on sale and I had to splurge. My son bent the needle in our old machine and I used it as an excuse to upgrade. Isn't it amazing?!?!? I find myself making more coffee daily, and I only had to make one pot during Thanksgiving dinner. I love the flexibility of the carafe or single cup. 

Until next time...

November Currently...

Sunday, November 1, 2015
So its been a while..... I've been so busy lately working at my new school. Not to mention my courseload, the kids, and adjusting to a longer commute. BUT I have made the time today to post for Oh' Boy Fourth Grade's Currently.

My husband LOVES football! Honestly, I was never really that into it. (I hope he doesn't read this!) We watch every game that broadcasts here on the East Coast and I don't really mind it that much anymore because I get a lot of school work done.

I am LOVING seeing my fall clothes again! Oh how I missed my fall wardrobe.... Sweaters, corduroy, scarfs, oh my! Ahhh.... fall is my favorite season of the year.

Although I am happy fall is really settling it, it is almost the end of the first marking period here (uh... next week?!?!) I am almost done writing our narratives, or comments as it known is most schools. We don't have a traditional grading system, which means each student gets a rubric and a narrative report of their progress. It comes out to about one and a half pages her child. It's not too bad actually and I really get to speak about each child's progress instead of just posting an A or a B on their report cards.

I'm dying for a new winter coat by the way. I bought one a few years ago to go to Canada for Thanksgiving with my husband and it's pretty heavy duty. I want a more sleek wool coat for the winter and I have my eye on one... Just waiting for a coupon or a sale, which ever comes first.

I am procrastinating right now because I should be writing my paper for my class, but I am here writing this post. Whoops. I'm just excited because I have only a few more weeks until the end of this semester. Much needed because I am exhausted.

Lastly, did I mention that I love fall? Bring on the pumpkin spice! I'm gluten free, so I can't really eat the pie, but I can drink the coffee!

Setting Goals {Math and SEL}

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

In the beginning of the year, I love getting to know my students and having them flush out goals for themselves as we enter this journey together. I set personal and professional goals for myself and I find it to be a helpful strategy. I want my students to find purpose in every lesson, every activity, and every experience in my classroom. Together, we set goals for math, ELA, and SEL.

Math Goals

Every student in my class needs to set a goal for the first quarter. Even if I have high flyers who zoom through the work with 100% accuracy, they can always work on something. I gave my students a list of possible math goals, since usually they have a hard time coming up with one randomly.
I wrote this on the board:

Some of the goals were more ELA or Speaking and Listen focused, which is often overlooked in math content. Students can get the right answer and have no idea how to articulate how they came to that answer. I found a product on TpT that was almost perfect for this activity. The original can be found here. I just tweaked the formatting around a bit. Each student received a half sheet of paper and on the board was a list of possible goals. I gave a few examples as to things they could do to reach their goals just to set them on the right track.

SEL Goals
Click here to download the SEL goal setting worksheet that was mentioned in my previous post. To see a student example, click here to see that post! It was such a fun activity to do with my kids as they unpacked the school's character standards. They definitely needed some real world practice using the standards in their everyday language, and this activity was great to do! One of my students used her pencil as a microphone to interview her partner and I have to say, it was so adorable. This is an activity that will be revisited around Thanksgiving to see how far they have come, or to see if they haven't made any progress and create an action plan to get the ball rolling.

ELA Goals
After our first round of DRA2 testing, I will have students set their goals for ELA. We have already introduced some reading skills that will be tricky throughout the year, so I'm hoping they can identify one skill they would love to work on this quarter after our introductory lessons. My students LOVE to read! It really is a teacher's dream... I can't even put into words how happy it makes me to see my kids reading for pleasure and begging for a few more minutes. My goal for my students is to master transferable reading skills, and I am currently working on a goal setting sheet that works!

How to Introduce a New Unit with Gallery Walks {Pictures Included!}

Monday, September 21, 2015
Whenever we begin a new unit, a great way to peak students' interests is a gallery walk! I love this for ANY content, ANY unit because it is so versatile and it gets my students moving around the room.

You can choose photos, text, quotes, images, etc. and place it on anchor chart paper. {Note: make sure the paper is at eye level, I placed the paper a bit high for my kiddos and the top part was left blank.} I kept my students in their table groups to rotate around the room, however depending on the activity, you can group them by level or ability.

Round 1: The first round, I asked my students to jot down what they believe we will be learning in this unit, things that stuck out, or questions they had. I modeled on one of the posters to set the expectation not to write too big because everyone needed to respond. Each student visited all of the posters during this round and participated.

Round 2: This is really my favorite round! This time, students had to read each others' responses and either check if they agreed, starred if they were interested in the same thing, or jotted down a comment such as "I'd like to learn that too!" This forced them to interact with each other through text and have a dialogue, otherwise they would not read the other comments on the posters.

Outcome: My students are excited for this unit! They are engaged, they have questions already and they are ready to learn. We ended the lesson by going over the essential questions and vocabulary for the unit as well as the skills they will be using throughout the unit. I cannot wait to continue with this unit, I am an anthropologist at heart after all.

Early Humans Gallery Walk

Thanks for visiting!

First Week of School {Activities & More!}

Sunday, September 20, 2015
Besides meeting my new students (YAY!) my first week of school was very intense. I wanted to roll out some goal setting activities, geography skills, and math baseline data activities within the first week. It actually rolled over into the next week, but that's ok!

10 Things You Need to Know
One of the very first activities we did was creating our lists of things every else needs to know about us! I created one to model the expectations and my kiddos got very creative with it. I loved learning about things they did over the summer or even just fun facts besides their reading level or grades from last year. I want to get to know them on a personal level to begin to build solid relationships.

Book Jackets
Over the summer, my students had to choose from a list of summer reading novels. I broke them up into summer reading groups and had them discuss the novel with one another. I had five groups going at once and the kids were very into the summer reads. After their discussions, they created a book jacket for their summer novel. The cover is either the original book cover, or another scene from the book. I have some very talented artists! On the inside, they listed the story elements of the book. They turned out so cute! 

Me on the Map
I love doing this activity! After reading the book, Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney, we went onto Google Maps and zoomed into our school. I continued to zoom out until the world was visible, both a 2D and 3D illustration. My students loved it! One student even asked me to find Kansas, which was a first. This activity is so much fun, and really give my students perspective as to their location on the maps in my classroom. It is a great intro for a geography unit as well. I used Clutter-Free Classroom's unit for the book and it was FILLED with great ideas, resources, and print and go activities. I still need to put the title on this bulletin board, but didn't they turn out fantastic! 

My classroom looks so much better with student work! I cannot wait to fill up the white spaces in my room with more work and hang their My Life posters from the line in my classroom. Stay tuned for those finished projects! 

Goal Setting
I wanted my students to get familiar with the character standards at our school and get some realistic goals for themselves to work on this year. Along with academic goals, my students also set SEL goals for themselves. I created this goal setting interview sheet based on an article by Maurice Elias entitled Back to School: Goal Setting With Your Students. I modified the questions SLIGHTLY to be appropriate for my students. I paired the students, and had them ask each other these questions and write down their responses. They had some very mature responses!

Want to try this activity with your kids? Download this handout below.

Thanks for stopping by!

My New Classroom 2015-2016! {Photos}

Sunday, September 6, 2015
Drumroll please.....

It's official September! I am thrilled to be done decorating and organizing my classroom... well as done as possible. School officially starts this week and I am excited/nervous/anxious/thrilled to meet my new kiddos!

Over the summer I found, and fell in love with, Ladybug's Teacher Files products! My classroom is practically a walking advertisement for her TpT store... Totally worth it. I picked up only three products from her store and my room is done, which I love. Labels galore!

I was lucky enough to go into my room over the summer to organize and sort through the last fourth grade teachers curriculum and supplies. If you're like me, you love seeing tons of classroom photos back to back to get a sense of the room so here you go!!

B2S Gifts 

Student Supply Boxes and Folders for each Subject (Labeled, of course)

Supply Caddy

Informational Text Library

The couch was left behind and I moved it to break up the space. I really need new pillows.

Complete with book baggies, again labeled. 

Fiction Library 

Built in storage! Yay! 

Below I will place photos of my students doing other activities (playing sports, playing an instrument, etc.)

View from the entrance.

 I don't like a lot of clutter on my desk because it makes me crazy.... Even now there is too much stuff on my desk. Below the photo of my family is Kristine Nannini's 4th Grade Morning Work! Pick it up if you want purposeful morning work for your students without all of the work of creating it daily.

I hope you enjoyed looking through my classroom photos as much as I enjoy looking through other teachers classrooms! It is always an exciting time of year and I love sharing my room with others who share the same passion for education.

Here's to an amazing 2015-2016 school year!

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