Friday, August 30, 2013

Anchor Chart Friday

...that's not a real thing.  But maybe it will become one!

ATP and I taught about book levels earlier this week.  Thanks to an idea from sweet colleagues, we demonstrated finding a "just right" book by having student volunteers try on three sizes of t-shirt: too small, too big, and just right. 

It was a great visual metaphor to address the fact that yes you CAN read a book that's too easy, or too hard, but it won't be comfortable or good for you as a reader.

Check out our anchor chart below, which goes along with the "5 Finger Test" to check for challenging words.
p.s. Make sure you check back on Monday for an EXCITING give away!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why Read?

Last week ATP and I launched our Reader's Workshop with a lesson on "Why Read?"  We talked about how reading helps you escape, helps you learn new things, process the world, grow as a writer and more.  It's such a fun way to get students excited about reading and start to build a community of real readers.

Our anchor chart...Loving my new magnetic curtain rod to hang previous lessons' notes!  I bought it here.

And then the next day my sister sent me this lovely quote from author Neil Gaiman.  Isn't it perfect?? 

Hopefully you can use it to share with your own readers.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pushing the Reset Button

We're three days into school and so far, so good.  And I've been sitting here staring at my screen for an hour now (okay, and watching Property Brothers) trying to decide what to write. 

Isn't that the way the beginning of the school year goes?  There is so much going on and it's hard to keep track of it all.  But it's also so exciting. 

It's pretty magical, actually, to have a job with a reset button.  No matter what happened the year before, we get to try again.  Even if we didn't actually keep up with all the RTI groups we promised we would, or call as many parents to talk about the positives as we had hoped, or do all the projects to extend students as we dreamed about, we get to try again.  This will be the year when all the pieces fall into place.

It's so unique to teaching and this magical promise of a better, more productive and positive year is still hanging in the air at least for a few more weeks.

And yet, as I'm writing, I also know it is crazy to actually think that I can finally achieve the near-perfect year.  I know it's a myth and the reality is meetings and common core and grading and parents and 504s and the list goes on and on.
So, I guess what I'm really saying right now is remember, in the midst of getting your reading data binders ready and making your room look picture perfect and completely re-levelling your library, that GRACE is so important.  Grace for our students, but mostly for ourselves.  Because at the end of the year, it won't have been perfect.  But, hopefully, with a little grace, we'll have a few moments along the way that remind us why we wanted to be a teacher.
And, if you need a little extra encouragement, check out the wise words of Rita Pierson in her inpsiring TED Talk, "Every Kid Needs a Champion."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Meet the Teacher

It's back to school tomorrow, so I'm keeping it quick, but I wanted to share some pictures from our "Meet and Greet" last night. 

It was a really encouraging night and I'm excited already for 2013-2014!
A poem from a former student about me and a half sheet for students to take home and learn more about me.  It led to some great connections with kiddos, too.

Trying to use these pre-addressed envelopes (by parents) to send home more positive notes this year.  

Wishing you all the best for a great year!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ask Me!

I found an idea I'm really excited to try out! From Tales of Frogs and Cupcakes blogger Janaye, I found this post about how to get station work to function more efficiently.  Since the time goes so quickly and students often have questions that interrupt time for me to work with small groups, she designates one student as the "Ask Me!" person. (Think supermarket name tag)

This student gets to wear the coveted tag and is in charge of paying super close attention to directions so that they can help peers troubleshoot and problem solve.  To make my tag, I used an old one from a conference and fancied it up a bit with stickers.

I can't wait to try it out!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Born for the Stage

A while ago I found some Pinspiration to create a stage for my classroom for poetry competitions, presentations, and the like.  Having the world's handiest dad, I emailed him this post along with my idea.
Papa put his own twist and engineering on it and I LOVE the final product.


ATP and I tried it out today (with a little Selena Gomez...ha ha).  Don't you love the rope lighting?

 I need to still get some curtains to really make it pop.  I'm thinking I'll get some cheap red flat sheets and tension rods to hang them from my ceiling.
I can't wait to bust this bad boy out for our first poetry competition.  It's going to really step it up a notch (literally).

Monday, August 12, 2013

Rest pt 2

Earlier this summer I wrote a post about the importance of rest and my goal to get better at it.  I consider this post evidence of my mission accomplished!  It's been lovely... Reds games, an opera concert, a picnic in the park, a family trip to Massachusetts, a fun wedding, and many sweet moments with friends.
baseball game with Dad

my FAVORITE running trail in MA
a little mojito on a rope swing

And truth be told, it wasn't easy.  There is so much to do with the common core roll out and classes and credits and workshops and meetings, but somehow, I think I did achieve a balance.  Thanks to the friends who held me to this! 
Most recently I enjoyed a lovely trip with two girl friends to Sawyer, MI, along Lake Michigan.  It was gorgeous and soul soothing.  And though working in my classroom today is a serious wake up call to reality, it was SO worth it. 

I hope you all were able to achieve some summer goals, especially if they involved rest.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New Used Books

Mom and I went to an amazing used book store's going out of business sale and struck it rich!  I'm talking 20 books for $23. 

Among those, there are a few I'm really excited about!

The first is This Land is Your Land.  The text is based on the song by Pete Seeger with love regional illustrations.  It will be a perfect fit before or after our regions studies to show the beautiful variety of America.

 Along those lines, I found two collections of "Americana" type text collections.  The first is From Sea to Shining Sea edited by Natasha Tabori Fried.  It is a collection of everything from recipes, to speeches, to poetry, to songs and letters, all about defining America.  

The other is called I Can Make a Difference: a Treasury to Inspire our Children, which I'm excited to use during our Civil Rights unit.  The selections in this book are grouped by topics such as "I can make a difference by being courageous," "I can make a difference by being grateful for the wonders of life," and "I can make a difference by being nonviolent and working for peace."


I found a few new narrative nonfiction books (a huge push in the CCSS).  Home Run by Robert Burleigh (about Babe Ruth) and A Band of Angels by Deborah Hopkinson (about the African American group the Jubilee Singers) were awesome finds for our NF unit.

Finally, I'm excited about Newbery Girls: Selections from Fifteen Newbery Award-winning Books Chosen Especially for Girls by Heather Dietz.  ATP and I try to really promote students reading across genres and publishing dates, with special attention to major award-winners.  I love the possibilities this book has for sharing my love of Newbery winners.  I can see future girls eating this one up.

*Note, I'm sorry that none of these titles are linked to Amazon... working from Mom's laptop today and it's not cooperating with me.  But I trust you can figure it out for your smart self :)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Planning for Careers Unit

What a fun summer this has been.  It's been relaxing, recharging, and full of new ideas for next year.  As I write, I'm dreaming of the Legends of Summer concert I'm attending with friends tomorrow evening...that's right, Justin and Jay-Z.  And me.
It's also been fun to host so many of my colleagues as guest bloggers this summer.  Today, I am sharing a post from the one-and-only Amanda Schreiber.  She is, in a word, amazing.  Amanda is my first go-to colleague when I need ANY idea, from a one day activity to leave for a sub, to an incredibly well-planned book club.  Her classroom is organized, colorful, and fun...just like her.  She is a curator of fonts, novels, and DVDs for which I am forever grateful.  Plus, after attending a summer wedding with her, she has some sa-weet dance moves.  What more could you want in a colleague?!

First and foremost, I want to thank Amy for letting me be a guest blogger! I’m truly excited to be posting on The Art of Teaching. You can also hop over and check out my blog My Shoe String Life. Thanks, Amy, for letting me blog with you!
Although, it’s only the end of July, I’m already thinking towards May of next year. I recently have been looking at our new calendars for Language Arts and Social Studies trying get back into “school mode.” We have a few changes to Social Studies this year and I know once I’m in a classroom with students, assignments, grading, and so on… I don’t have the luxury of always perusing the internet at great lengths to find quality materials. I make the time usually but I’m trying to use my time wisely this year. So, I thought I’d look into our newest unit, Careers. It’s going to be an end of the year “fun” unit in which we teach students about careers and personal finances. Students need to understand possible career choices, education and skills careers require, and how having a career can help with personal finances. Whew! That’s a lot to cover in May! Where to start?
I started with a Google search of Career videos and lesson plans! I hit the jackpot right away! The website has an entire section on jobs! You can access the site by clicking here. They have two different sites one for grades K-5 and one for “Teens” grades 6-8. I can’t make out the difference in videos. It appears my fifth graders could access either site. I don’t see a huge difference. On the site they have lists of jobs grouped by “subject” and then there are links to articles, videos, etc. that describe the career. They even have a video to get kids thinking called “What Do You Like?”  The website is SO user friendly and easy to use! Check out the screen shot below.

After checking out the introduction video, students could then watch videos based on their interest to help them narrow down several careers they might want to research. One of my favorite videos will hit home to a lot of my athletes, it’s on the career of a physical therapist. You can check out the video here on You Tube.

While googling, I found another website that also very informative. The website is called KnowItAll.Org. You can view real profiles of professions in certain careers. It’s great because you can pull up real people to get more information on specific careers. There are also videos for each career on this site as well! What wealth of authentic information! Here is an example of a profile from the site for a Dietitian.

Now what should students do with all this great information? I found a great unit plan on Teacher’s Notebook to help teachers and students organize all this great information! You can find the unit in My Book Boost’s shop or by clicking here.  The unit plan is structured so that students are able to see a list of careers, choose their top choices, and organize their research. There are also discussion questions and three reflection pages for students to complete after their initial research. At only $1.50 for the entire unit, it’s a steal and a time saver!
As the culminating activity, I’m hoping to have students create some sort of presentation about their favorite career. I was thinking of perhaps having a “career fair” sort of day so that we can get through all the presentations in one day. If students rotate, they can meet the Common Core’s speaking and listening standards by presenting their display to me and other students while also getting an opportunity to visit other students’ booths. I’m also hoping to involve some parents and hopefully get quite a few guest speakers to come in and talk about their personal careers as well. Good thing I have until May to pull this off!
Thank you, Amy, for allowing me to guest blog! I can’t wait to come back again!
What do you think? Does your school teach careers? Any lesson gems out there?
Thanks so much for reading my post!


Friday, August 2, 2013

History Class Take-Aways

This week ATP and I, along with some other colleagues, took an American History class.  The class was very lecture-heavy with content much deeper than we would share with 5th graders.  But there were some take-aways I want to remember to incorporate into future teaching.

The focus of the course was on ecological and geographical connections to history.  (Fancy, eh?)

Day one focused on the demise of the buffalo (yup...5 hours).  The presenter's argument was that much more of it was already in motion before the white hunter/settler.

I particularly liked this infographic that was shared.  I think it's a great way to show students the deep impact that the decline of the buffalo had on the culture of the Plains indians.

On day two, we started with a presentation on ArcGIS software.  GIS stands for Geographic Information System. 
The software has been purchased by the state of Ohio for K-12 classrooms, but is still in the roll-out phase.  There are lots of potential uses for our newly geographic-focused curriculum, especially in allowing students to make inferences about different thematic maps and what they reveal about the city/region.  Check out some of the data available here and some examples of maps below.
The software is limited right now by the fact that students have to have a unique account linked by email.  Also, right now all the free accounts are public, so make sure to remind students not to mark their own homes.

Disclaimer: a LOT of this seems very complicated and to my untrained eye.  I would prefer to use Google Maps/Earth for most of the same type of lessons.  I'm sure if you really get into the ArcGIS software there is a lot more depth, but I'm not sure I'm totally ready to dive in.
One feature I am eager to try is the newly developed addition of Story Maps.  Basically, they are animated maps that cover an event, from the Moore tornado to the Battle of Gettysburg.  I want to remember to look into this more this school year.
Since then the take aways have been minimal, but we did take a walking tour of downtown Hamilton to learn about the Flood of 1913.  I'm not sure if there is enough history in our school district to actually do this, but as AC (awesome colleague) shared, it would be an interesting project to have students create more of a "virtual" walking tour of some sort.  AC's idea was to create a larger "walking tour" of a region.  This could also be incorporated locally with the impact of European exploration. Perhaps a walking tour of nearby English, Spanish, or French architecture? 
Overall, I'm thankful for the credit hours and the few nuggets of ideas, but mostly, it was a good week to catch up with colleagues before heading back into our classrooms.