Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hey Everyone!  Need some new lessons and activities to make it through the long winter stretch?  Most Teachers Pay Teachers stores are having a HUGE sale this weekend in honor of the Super Bowl.  Most sellers are marking down  20% which is the maximum allowed.  TpT is offering 10% more off of that price!  That ends up being 28% off many great products.  If you have wishlisted some items, now is the time to check out.  My sale starts tomorrow and goes through Sunday.  Please visit and become a follower!  The extra 10% from TpT requires the promo code "Super" and is for Sunday only. 


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Freebie Linky Party

It's almost February!  Unbelievable how fast the year goes.  Anyway, I linked up with All Things Upper Elementary  for a Freebie Linky Party.  So far, there are 54 freebies to be shared!  My contribution is a set of free blank game boards.  I use these for sight word, prefix/suffix, and figurative language practice in a center or small group, but they could be used in any subject.  Check out all the freebies on this site. Please don't forget to leave feedback and comments for the freebies you share.
Free blank game boards!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Complex Text - The Leanin' Dog by K.A. Nuzum

Leanin' Dog unit
I'm excited to start a new novel unit with my class next week.  Since I'm teaching level 1 in our differentiated model, I'm a little nervous about using this novel, The Leanin' Dog.  I've used it every year and loved it.  The text is rich and complex, with a lot of figurative language, deep themes and antiquated vocabulary.  I know it will be quite a challenge for my students, but it will be a good experience for them to persist through it.  I will definitely need to scaffold the instruction.  I added my unit to my TpT store for purchase.  I spent quite a bit of time revamping this unit to align with the CCSS.  If you purchase and use this unit, be sure to visit the author's website.  She features a monthly poetry contest.  She seems to publish all poems that are sent in, and sends a Leanin' Dog Tshirt to the winner.  This is a great motivator for students.  Another great thing is that the author actually emailed me!  (so exciting -she's FAMOUS!!)  I had a student enter the contest and didn't include her name.  I couldn't believe K.A. Nuzum actually took the time to email me to see if she was one of my students.  Love that!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Clutter Free Project - Week 2 (a little late!)

This is my way of doing things recently - late!  Actually, I'm not even sure if it is week 2 or week 3 of this project.  Better late than never.  This week's challenge is to come up with a plan for getting rid of the clutter.  I tried to get a jump on the clutter, but I ran into some problems.  I didn't have rules for myself.  This week's challenge should help me on my next endeavor.  So, my new rules for the next area I attack are:

1.  Throw away extra copies that I think I should save for next year.  I'll never find them when I need them anyway!
2.  If I can't put it in an organized binder, throw it away or make a digital copy and then throw it away.
3.  Speaking of digital copies, maybe I should start by decluttering the computer.  My files are a mess.  Now I need to make some computer cleaning rules.
4.  If I haven't used it since I moved into my classroom, throw it away!

Better get busy!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Successful lesson alert!  I'm using the Harvey & Goudvis Comprehension Toolkit in my Lang. Arts class.  The focus in this lesson was questioning the text as we read.  My students, like I have said before, are the "level 1" students in our differentiated model.  They struggle with decoding, so comprehension is definitely a struggle.  The H & G lesson suggested reading "The Mary Celeste, An Unsolved Mystery From History" by Jane Yolen.  The text was far above my kids' reading levels, but we did this as a read aloud.  I modeled my thinking and questioning, and then gave the kids this interactive notebook sheet to follow along with my reading.  We worked together as a class to ask questions and to notice when our questions were answered.  Next, they tried it on their own, while I paused at the end of each page to allow for them to write down any questions they had, or any answers they had noticed.  The lesson became successful for me, when I noticed students (not all) using the strategy while reading another book on their own reading level.  One student even recreated the format in her notebook and was using it to track her questions and answers!  I have to celebrate the small things!  Somedays this level tests my patience, but the rewards are great!                                                                                                        Interactive Notebook - Questioning the Text

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Fridays are Wikispaces days in my ELA classes this year.  Our school differentiates for Reading and Math.  I teach the "level one" class which has been quite a challenge for me, but very rewarding on most days.  Everyone in my class receives progress monitoring every other week, and many once a week, I have started using Wikispaces as a way to create time for me to do the progress monitoring, while at the same time providing a fun, creative thinking type project for students to work on during those days.  I got the idea from a blog somewhere two summers ago.  I feel bad, because I can't remember which blog I got this from to give them credit!

Each student created a "homework" page on his/her individual Wiki.  I spend a little time on the day before introducing a web tool such as ToonDoo, Pixton, Glogster, Voki, etc. I make sure they know how to access the site, how to use the tools and how to save.  Then on Friday, I quickly give them an assignment to complete with the web tool.  One example we have done is to explain the conflict in the story in a three panel cartoon.  While I am out progress monitoring for fluency and comprehension, they work on this project with my para in the classroom.  When they finish, they embed the "widget" on their Wikispace.  I can grade it from there, and as a bonus, their parents can look at these from home. 

If it is something you could use, feel free to copy and paste anything you find onto your own Wikispace.  These are free for students and have such a wide application.  It's easy to create bulk users so that each of your students can have their very own.  I created a student notebook "cheat sheet" as a reminder of how to embed a widget, as well as a password file in which to keep all their log in information for different sites we may use.  You can download these for free if interested. 
Visit our Wikispaces:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Yep!  I'm joining the Clutter Free Classroom Project.  This is a challenge from The Clutter Free Classroom Blog.  The first step is taking pictures of cluttered areas of your classroom.  This is stressful! It sometimes becomes easy to live with a few junky areas.  However, I decided the junk areas stress me out enough that it is worth taking the time to just do it.  So, today, in an effort to avoiding grading the journals stacked beside my desk, I got started.  I snapped some before pictures of the bookshelf beside my desk and the counter behind my desk.  These two areas seem to be where I stack all the extra paperwork I somehow end up with and don't know what to do with.  (You know, the handouts you get at meetings that you know you won't look at again, but it seems like you should keep them.)  Then I started trying to organize everything into binders.  More binders.  Suddenly, I looked at my desk and chair and realized I had made a huge mess.  I should have taken a picture of that!  Then I got overwhelmed.  Luckily our resident organized Type A teacher came by and was excited to help me keep going.  She got me over the hump and I was able to finish.  I do feel so much better now that it is done.  It may inspire me to look inside my big closet/cabinet and take some pictures.  Maybe not.  We'll see.
My bookshelf - Before.  Messy, messy, messy.

Close up of my "organization"

The counter behind my desk - Before
After!  I decided to put my organizer bins on the counter.  I wasn't using them where they were on my bookshelf. My organizer teacher friend said they were probably in the wrong place.  I moved them in the hopes that I will actually use them as I intend now.

Bookshelf - After!  Much better.  Still need to work on making those binders look better. Next on the list, find some color coordinating binders.