Saturday, July 16, 2016

I'm officially back...but where have I been?

Hello, friends! Gosh, I can't believe it's been more than six months since I've posted. Rest assured, I have a great excuse. I've been a busy bee! Here's a quick rundown of what's kept me from blogging.

So, at the beginning of March, my husband received orders to report to Northern California by the end of June.
We'd been in Virginia for almost 6 years, so we knew our time was coming to an end, yet we weren't expecting to report so soon. Needless to say, the time between March and June was crazy stressful. There was suddenly so much to do. That three months FLEW by, filled with planning, packing, and trying not to be a giant ball of stress the entire time.

But, let me be clear that I was totally excited for this change, even more so because we were heading to sunny California! It seems that coast to coast moves are becoming my specialty, having moved from MA to WA in 2008, WA to VA in 2010, and now VA to CA in 2016. <--------- Is anyone else noticing that I keep moving to states that have abbreviations ending in the letter A? 

The month of June, as I now look back, was definitely the craziest of all. As soon as the year ended, the movers came to get all of our stuff and before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to Virginia and the wonderful view we've had for the last six years.
Our view in Virginia

We did six days of driving across the country! We didn't have time to do much sightseeing since we were traveling with my two cats, but we did take in a few sights here and there. Here's a few pictures from along the way that you've probably already seen if you follow me on Instagram!

Hello from Indiana!
Hello from Nebraska!

Hello from Cheyenne, Wyoming!
Wyoming is beautiful! 

Hello from Utah! 
Hello from Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah!

Hello from two states, Utah and Nevada!
Hello from Nevada!

Hello from Northern California! 

Of course, my biggest concern was moving my two cats across the country again, as they've done all of my coast to coast moves with me and let's just say that they aren't big fans of travel.  However, they actually did quite well, although they were total bed hogs, just ask my husband! 

We arrived in California at the end of June, stayed on the base until we found a house to rent, and moved in to our new place on July 1st. Since then, we've been busy making our house a home and when that started to settle, I started to bring my things to my new classroom! Yes, friends, I will continue my teaching adventures in fifth grade in California so my blogging focus will continue to be upper elementary. 

Now that I'm getting settled in, I hope to get back to more regular blogging. I've got lots of creations and ideas to share with you. Thanks for sticking with me during my time away! Until next time, I'll just leave these palm trees here for you to enjoy! 

See those clouds? Nope, neither do I!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Valentine's Day Topper Freebie

Well, my three-day weekend has officially begun and it's going to be a chilly one, but I have just the thing to warm you up! It's my annual Valentine! This year, I grabbed Annie's cheddar bunnies (one of my favorite snacks - extras for Mrs. O!) from Target. I made a cute bunny topper that I wanted to share with you! I used the blue and pink, but I did make two versions and included both in my freebie! Click on the picture below or my freebies tab above to download this freebie.

Have a Happy Valentine's Day! 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Super Link-Up and Giveaway With Some SUPER Bloggers!

Today I am SUPER excited to link-up with some AMAZING bloggers for a SUPER Link-Up and Giveaway! Most of these awesome bloggers are in Colorado, so you know they'll be rooting for the Broncos tonight, and I'll be rooting for them here in Virginia, too! Of course, the great thing about this link-up is that everyone is a winner, regardless of which team you are rooting for! Each blog that is participating will be sharing a SUPER classroom idea and telling you about a SUPER classroom resource that they've created that you can win as a part of our amazing giveaway! What's that? You want to know more about this giveaway? Well, read on to find out more! 

Clip Art by EduClips
If you're like me, one lesson is likely to include teacher notes, student notes, practice pages, games/task cards/hands-on activities, and homework. That can be a lot to keep track of! Last year, I decided that I wanted to get more organized and keep all of my resources together where they would be ready for me year after year. I wanted to be able to find everything I needed for a unit in one place. So I decided to use binders to organize everything I used for each lesson. I bought a bunch of sheet protectors and binders and worked really hard to put everything that I used in as I used it. This year, prepping for my lessons has been a total piece of cake! All I have to do is pull out my binder for each quarter and my resources are already there, in order and ready to go! When I'm prepping for the week, I grab my binder, head to the copier, pull out my originals, copy them, and put them right back in the binder for next time. I've already got all of my task cards and games in there prepped and ready to go! I'm no longer searching all over for what I need. Plus, when I find something new that I want to add to my unit, it's easy to just grab a sheet protector, slide it in, and add it to my binder where it belongs. It's truly been a game changer when it comes to prepping for my lessons!

My contribution to our giveaway is one of best-selling resources, my Independent Reading Logs aren't your typical reading logs. These are focused on specific reading strategies and skills. I created these more than seven years ago after feeling like the reading logs that students were completing were a waste of my time and more importantly, theirs. It didn't help me to see if students could actually use the reading skills and strategies that I was teaching. These allow me to see what areas students have mastered and which need more focus, which is really helpful when I am planning for intervention. Additionally, my students actually enjoy completing these. That makes them a win, win for everyone! Want to win this resource? They're just one of 18 resources that are a part of both our grand prize and runner-up prizes, which means you have three chances to win! Wondering what else you can win? Take a look at the SUPER prizes below and enter to win! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don't forget to check out the other blogs participating in this link-up and see what wonderful ideas they have to share!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Using a Student Sample for an Engaging Lesson on Revising and Editing

Pencil Clip Art by Educlips

Last week, I had my formal observation. I was observed for writing and I wanted to try something new with my fifth graders. Of course, I wanted something authentic. I'm not one for a "dog and pony show" when it comes to being observed because I want my feedback to help me grow as an educator. I sat down and considered that my students had recently finished fictional narrative writing. When I considered their final products, my overall feeling was that they were speeding through both revising and editing. I didn't feel like they were really understanding the importance of those steps, so I wanted to review what revising and editing look like. Of course, I wanted it to be engaging so I didn't want to just stand at the front of the room talking about it. I wanted them to see the results of proper editing and revising. I immediately thought of a student's writing that was already very good, but could've been even better with a bit of revising and editing. Of course, the first thing that I had to do was to make sure that I had two thumbs up from my student author. Luckily, I received it! From there, I began to plan my lesson. Here's what my lesson looked like:

First, I gathered my students on the carpet for a review of revising and editing. I found a few different venn diagrams as I was browsing on Pinterest and liked this one best: Revising and Editing Venn Diagram. After making a couple of changes, I typed the different statements out and cut them out separately. I read the statements one at a time, calling on students to come up and place each statement in the proper part of the diagram.
Pencil Clip Art by Educlips

When all of the statements were placed, I talked about the writing process and how authors often revise and edit over and over before they love their final product. We discussed the reasons for revising and I reviewed the different parts of the writing that we edit. We call it CPiGS where I am, standing for capitalization, punctuation, indents, grammar, and spelling.

Quick Reflection: In my lesson, I gave students a copy of the venn diagram and had them copy it down. In hindsight, this took quite a bit of time, and since I put the display up on my board, it wasn't really necessary. I wouldn't do that part again, so you can learn from my mistake! If anything, I might type up a completed venn diagram and have that copied and ready for them so that they can add it to their writing folder.

After that, I told students that we were going to get a hands-on experience with a student author's work. I made a big deal of talking about how wonderful his paper was, but that I felt it could be even better with a bit of revising and editing. I wanted to be sure that this was a positive experience for all, and so I talked about being sensitive to the fact that the author was their classmate. I then gave students specific directions for the lesson, a copy of the entire essay, and a section of the essay that would be their group's focus.

Pencil Clip Art by Educlips

1) Read the entire essay to familiarize yourself with the piece. Choose one person in your group to read the essay aloud and be good listeners while the story is being read.
2) Read the section of the essay that you have been assigned and first, revise it. There may be something to move, something to take out, or something that needs to be added. Share your thoughts and ideas as a group and decide what revisions are best for this paper. You must make at least one revision.
3) Reread the section of the essay that you have been assigned and now focus on editing. Remember, you should be specifically focused on fixing any run-on sentences and fixing capitalization as you make those changes. If you notice other things, you can change those at the
end if time allows, but STAY FOCUSED on run-on sentences and capitalization until you’ve fixed all of that.

I am happy to report that my students were excited to do this! They worked in groups of three, each focusing on the section that they were given. They were engaged in their work as they revised and edited and their conversations were fantastic. As they worked, I moved around to each group, discussing the different changes that they were making. I found that the checklist was really helpful in keeping them on task. It also helped that I planned the groups ahead to be sure that there was at least one focused individual in each group. As you might have guessed, the best conversation came from the group that the student author was in. He was his own biggest critic!

Pencil Clip Art by Educlips

When they were finished, the students rewrote their section on a piece of chart paper. We placed the finished rewrites on the board and the students were able to gallery walk and reread the paper with improvements. They returned to the carpet, where they informed me that they had found even more places to revise and edit during their gallery walk.

After the gallery walk, we discussed how their revisions and edits improved the overall paper and I pointed out that many of their corrections were things that I had mentioned to the student author in our conference as well. My goal had been to review revising and editing and help students to see the power in taking the time to make changes that will truly improve their writing and I believe that was achieved and so did my administrator. I'll definitely do this lesson again!

Pencil Clip Art by Educlips

Saturday, January 2, 2016

January 2016 Currently

Goodness, gracious, it has been too long!  I'm sorry I've been on hiatus, but rather than make 1,000 excuses, I'll just say that life happens and it seems life has kept me quite, quite busy! 

So, in an attempt to get back in the saddle, I thought I'd get back to joining one of my favorite linkies with Farley from Oh' Boy 4th Grade. Without further ado, here's my January currently! 

Listening: Although I am on break, I still leave the weekends for cleaning, which means it's laundry time! But at least I can still sit on the couch and watch some TV while the clothes are being laundered, though I suppose I should get to folding and ironing sooner or later.

Loving: I'm usually no good at relaxing, but I started off the break a little under the weather, and so at first I was in forced relaxation mode. Now I am just on "so this is relaxing...I think I'll do more of this" mode.

Thinking: I'm always excited to start new books. My teammate and I share students for our guided reading groups and we've recently restructured. I'm always excited to start some new books with my kiddos.

Wanting: I'm a military wife and we've been in Virginia for almost 6 wonderful years. Unfortunately, that means our time will soon come to an end. We won't find out where we're headed next until March! All the unknowns are driving me a bit batty!

Needing: I don't have papers to grade or lessons to plan as I did that before the break, but I do need to tackle the aforementioned reading groups and prep our science project for this week and next. We're going to build parachutes for LEGO men and see what group can build the best one!

One little word: LOVE. I don't want to be THAT person, but I've spent this whole break with my husband by my side. Between my being under the weather and the weather itself being icky, we didn't do a whole bunch. However, even when I wasn't feeling my best, the hubby has kept me smiling and laughing. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful man.

Ok, here's hoping it will be a wonderful 2016! If you'd like to check out what other bloggers are "Currently" up to, head over to Farley's page by clicking below.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Doodle & Think - A Great Way to End Your Week

Last year, I came across Doodle Art Alley, which has free printable inspirational quotes that are begging to be colored! I allowed students to color them our first week and then used them to decorate our cupboards throughout the year. It was a great way to brighten up our room!

This year, I decided to do things a little differently. My students have morning work each day that is a science daily review, because our fifth grade students are tested on 4th and 5th grade standards. The daily review keeps those fourth grade concepts fresh in their mind all year. Anyway, these reviews only go Monday through Thursday, so I needed some morning work for Friday. Since my fifth graders work hard all week, I wanted it to be something that was a little bit more relaxing. I thought about how coloring has become all the craze again and how there really isn't much time for coloring in fifth grade. Then I thought about these inspirational quotes and tried to think of a way that I could use them each Friday as their morning work without them being just about coloring. That's when I realized that my read-aloud and these quotes could be connected! 

Each Friday as part of our morning meeting, I read a different picture book. Each book has a different theme that can be applied to the choices that students make and the experiences that they have had. So I thought to myself, what if I pulled quotes that connect the stories that I read and I ask students to share what the quotes mean to them? That's when my Doodle and Think form was born! 

We started with  The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein and students received one of the two quotes in the picture above. For morning work, they filled out the Doodle and Think Form, explaining what the quote means to them, and then they color the quote. After morning announcements, they bring their quotes and Doodle & Think forms to the carpet, I read the story, and then students are able to share what they wrote. We talk about how the quotes connected to the story and how they can apply the message to their own lives. These conversations have been rich, meaningful, and engaging. I couldn't ask for more. I really teach students to embrace mistakes as a part of learning, and the responses that they came up with showed me that they know the importance of a safe learning environment where mistakes are not something to be ashamed of. 

I have an elephant theme this year so I stocked up on elephant picture books. How I made it through 10 years without ever reading Elmer by David McKee is beyond me! I LOVE this little story and my students did too. What a great conversation we had about accepting each other and the beauty of being your own person. Since I have fifth graders, this turned in to a great conversation about not changing who you are because of peer pressure. Loved this! 

Continuing with my love of elephants, was Ellie by Mike Wu! My favorite response from this day was "great things come in small packages." Again, an adorable picture book, a great lesson, and a conversation that made me confident that these Friday Doodle & Thinks are so much more than coloring and a read-aloud. 

I am going to try to share my Doodle & Think with you each week. If you'd like to grab the Doodle & Think form, click below and download the file! Whether it's Friday, Monday, or just a random day, you'll enjoy the great conversations that come from this activity!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Back to School Tidbits

First week…complete! I have such a wonderful group this year that I actually don't feel that "end of the first week" tired. Instead, I'm feeling excited and rejuvenated. I truly believe that it will be a fabulous year! In this post, I wanted to share a few tidbits that started the year off on the right foot! 

Each year, I create a welcome poem for my students. In the past, I've stuffed the bag with sugary treats and left the bag on student desks for open house. This year, I decided to change things up and write a poem that would include supplies that I wanted each student to start with. Instead of giving it to students at open house, it was waiting on their desks on the first day. That way I knew students would all start with what they needed. It was much cheaper to put together than the candy bags, too! If you'd like to grab this poem, you can find it here: Welcome Back to School Poem for Supplies

Since I still wanted to welcome my students with a little treat, I opted for gourmet lollipops. It turns out that CVS had them on sale, two for $1…score! I also bought welcome bracelets from Really Good stuff, added green tags and some twine and voila, a perfect welcome gift was created! 

Of course, I never leave the parents out! I like to give them a little treat too, so for the second year in a row, I gave them "parent vitamins" with a really cute saying for each color of a pack of M&M's. Parents got a big kick out of them! You can pull up a copy here: Parent Vitamins
Our lovely fifth grade bulletin board. Student names are on the followers and peace signs. I drew that mystery bus freehand, so please be kind, I am normally a stick figure kinda gal! How fun is that font? It's called Shagadelic! Love it! 

Inspired by an idea I found from Jessica at The Teaching Oasis, I put together a welcome gift for a new teacher that I get to mentor. She's a baseball fan like me, so I made it a baseball themed-basket! Read more about this idea from Jessica at The Teaching Oasis here: Welcome Basket

I'm hoping that you are all off to a wonderful start of the 2015-2016 year too! May each week be an opportunity for growth for you and your students!