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Sunday, September 28, 2014


I love fall! It has always been my favorite time of year, from the smells to the decorations...
This was taken at Lagoon, an amusement park in Utah.

...and the fact that my classroom is running (more or less) smoothly. The kiddos are still excited about the wonders this school year will bring, as are all the teachers. We just finished our local hot-air balloon festival, the first units in math, reading, and science are coming to a close, and writer's workshop is up and running full force! Our school is focusing on writing this year, and I'm lucky enough to be facilitating our professional development for the first semester.
I have used writer's workshop for 10 of my 11 years of teaching, and I can't imagine teaching writing any other way. It is universal--works for kindergartners on up. After our last staff discussion I learned that there are many preferences to how it looks. It all depends on your teaching style...and ability to tune out the extra noise.

In my class, I always start with a mini-lesson with either a picture book (even for my 5th graders), anchor chart, or student writing (the exemplars from the CCSS appendix are great, or writing examples from a previous class). That never lasts more than 10 minutes.
Narrative Anchor chart--we add to it with each mini-lesson

Then we write, write, write! Some teachers like silence during this time, some like quiet music in the background, I like the quiet hum of students sharing ideas, peer conferencing, teacher conferences, writing together, along with the students who choose to write independently with a variety of music playing in the background (it's different every day). Wrap up with 1 or 2 students sharing what they are working on with the class. I have found in my own experience that my kids learn as much from each other as from me, so I don't make them write silently on their own during workshop time. Journal time is different; that should be quiet and independent, but I believe workshop time is just that--a workshop. I allow students to co-author books, or split up the job of writing and illustrating if they choose. Some students choose to brainstorm together, then go off on their own and write. Some students stay together from planning all the way through publishing. And there are always others who prefer to work alone.

Whatever works, as long as they're writing!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

100 TPT Followers!

I've hit my first big milestone on TPT: 100 followers! I am so excited I just had to share :)
To celebrate, everything in my store is 20% off, plus the first 3 people to comment on this post will get their  choice of any item in my!
Here's an example of one of my items; I hung it on a mini-bulletin board, but it can easily be strung together as a banner.

The next milestone give-away is for 100 Pinterest followers ;)

Friday, September 12, 2014

You Oughta Know About...the 4 R's

Thank you Mrs. McClain for hosting this blog hop once again! I'm always happy to participate.

This month I'd like to share an effective reading strategy I've been using for long I forgot where I initially heard about it. I've had success with this strategy with first-graders up through fifth-graders. While it is good for any text, I find it especially helpful for nonfiction. It's called 4 R's. 


Sounds way too simple, right? Have students read a short portion of text (independently, with a partner, all doesn't matter). Next they cover the section with their hand. The third step is the most important: they silently remember what they just read about. I usually give them 5-10 seconds of remembering time, depending on the complexity of the text. Lastly, they retell the text to a partner.

To make students accountable for this strategy we play a game called "I Remember". They know they have to retell and they have to listen carefully to what their partner says because they will be sharing both if called on. To play I remember I randomly call a student. They begin with the sentence stem: "My partner remembered..., and I remembered...". This little activity not only holds them accountable for the text, but also helps them comprehend the text better by listening to the details that their classmates got that may differ from what they got out of it. And it gives me insight to their level of comprehension: are they regurgitating what they just heard? Are they referring to the text explicitly? Or are they inferring or drawing conclusions based on what they just read?

I get tons of information. Students are really comprehending the text and having in depth conversations about the text. And best of all, there are absolutely no worksheets that I have to grade!

Thank you for taking time to read my post! Now hop on over to one of these other fabulous bloggers for more great information:

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Week 2...and Still Surviving!

I am loving this switch to 5th grade! Through all this chaos, I'm trying to keep up on my blog (yeah right!), join in pinning parties, facilitate my school's professional development, learn a completely different curriculum, and make time for my family. Doesn't sound too difficult?

I'm happy to say that my classroom is finally just like I want it to be...ugly, useless TV removed, interactive bulletin boards up and running, and a good start on the Leader in Me program. Here's to a fabulous year!

4-square "A Great Classmate..." Loved this cooperative learning activity!

Multiplication rockets blasting off

The math conversation bubbles were a TPT find; the hard-to-see vocabulary cards are on my TPT store for kindergarten through 5th grade: CCSS Vocabulary Posters

Trying something new this year--Math Daily 3--so far the kids are loving it, but I'm having a hard time finding TIME to implement. We'll keep on trying.

No more ugly TV blocking my math board!

Schedule Signs: another product from my TPT store--I've been using this one for 4 years now!

And 7 Habits posters to go with our Leadership Jobs.