Friday, August 8, 2014

Back to School

Long time, no blog! But, trust me - I have been busy in that time! Especially since the month changed to August - I have kicked it into high gear getting ready for a new year.

Call me crazy, but I LOVE my classroom themes! And every year I also make a ton of work for myself by changing the theme. Last year was an ocean theme and this year I am going to HOLLYWOOD!! I've been pinning non stop looking for cute ideas and I already went crazy at my local teacher store buying borders and decorations. I even found these ADORABLE clapboard/filmstrip decor at the Dollar Tree!!

Unfortunately, my classroom was being used for summer camp and isn't clean yet - but once it is I will post pictures of my classroom set up/decor. In the meantime, take a look at one of my favorite projects so classroom job chart! Since we also don't have our class lists yet, I also went for numbers instead of names - but I've only recently embraced using numbers!!! (Also I more than likely won't have 23  - yikes - students in my class, but I just wanted to be prepared! Haha!)

I've been doing a lot of projects at home until I can get into my classroom, and another thing I've finished is my Hollywood Themed Back to School Night Presentation. I've also made it into an editable presentation for my TPT store - that will be a FLASH FREEBIE for the next day!!! 

Not doing a Hollywood theme this year? Check out my other back to school presentations...

(Click on link above picture!)

I know from all my blogger friends that we are all in the same boat - setting up our classroom, re-organizing and getting ready to meet our new babies! Good luck to those that start school soon (eek!)! Check back in a week or so for some classroom set up pics!! 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Nonfiction Writing & Mother's Day

It’s been a long time since we blogged! So sorry! March and April were full of assessment and data collection so we could turn in our Documentation Logs.

On to more fun things…We recently completed nonfiction research projects. This was a great way to end our reading unit in nonfiction. As a class, we brainstormed nonfiction topic ideas. Next, we voted and narrowed it down to six topics. From there, students wrote down their top three choices and grouped them by interest. Students researched their projects by taking notes onto sticky notes. I used the Sticky Notes Research Project paper from Sarah Cooley at First Grader at Last to help students organize their information.

After a few days of collecting research, students sorted their sticky notes into categories. These became the headings on their posters. 

Before presenting, students made a plan by deciding on who would read each part and practicing.

I also wanted to share that I’m throwing a sale for Teacher Appreciation! My whole store is 20% off. 

I’ve recently added an All About Mom book for Mother’s Day. I modeled it after the All About Books we did in our nonfiction writing unit. Check it out here. 

P.S. I used Catie's Expert Web topic to help the students brainstorm ideas of what to write about Mom.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It's a SALE!

This week Lisa and I are teaming up to showcase some of our bestsellers from Teachers Pay Teachers and joining in the sale fun for 3 Million Teachers Strong on TPT.


As part of our Reader’s Workshop, students have time to read independently and with a partner. I have found that explicitly teaching and modeling how to partner helps students maximize their time on task and grows their reading ability!

I tend to introduce this in the beginning of the year when I’m setting up Reader’s Workshop, but you can implement any time of the year. When I first started teaching second grade and began partner reading I didn’t know how to teach students to read in partnerships. I just sent them off to read together! Well, you can imagine chaos ensued and I began to dread it. Our school literacy coach introduced me to these three ways to partner read and now I don’t dread it. The kids love it, I love it, and I hope you will love it, too!

Below is a picture of the anchor chart I made in the beginning of the year. 

The partner reading set includes three mini posters explaining each strategy as well as two types of bookmarks; one with words and pictures and one with just pictures. I like to print them on cardstock and laminate for durability so students can keep them in their book box and refer to them all year long. 


Click here to receive 20% of my Partner Reading packet and everything else in my store from 2/27-2/28.

Would love to know other ways you might do partner reading in your classroom.  Please share in the comments.

My entire store is 20% during the TPT sale the next couple of days!!! However, my BEST selling product is my Persuasive Letter Writing Pack. Persuasive writing is an important part of the common core and addressing it in a kid friendly way is essential! I used this pack when I taught second graders, but it is definitely appropriate for any of the primary grades. The students in my class LOVED convincing their parents, friends, and teachers in their letters. 

In the pack, you will find 2 graphic organizers - one for generating ideas for possible letters and another to help your students plan their writing and two mini anchor charts about adding details/transition words to their letters. Click on the image below to check it out!

Take a look at one of the persuasive letters my students wrote last year about whether or not we should keep our butterflies from our life cycles unit!! She used the graphic organizers to help her develop a letter that had strong arguments!

Lastly, check out this cute craftivity by Polly McCoy that I did with my students the other day to combine February's Dental Health theme and the non-fiction studies we were doing in our class. It went perfectly with the book What If You Had Animal Teeth? by Sandra Markle. The students kept track of why different animals have different teeth and then completed this ADORABLE craft! Click on one of the pictures below to check it out in her store!

Thanks for stopping by for the BIG SALE!! Happy shopping! I will be doing some browsing myself - so let me know your favorite products!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Writing Conferences

Well, New Jersey is getting hit with ANOTHER Nor'easter, so here I am at home with a snow day. Now, I am actually a self proclaimed snow lover - but this is getting a little ridiculous. The fun of staying home is being compounded by the fact that the kids learning is getting interrupted!!!

In the meantime, let me share a little bit with you about how writing workshop works in my classroom! Our school follows the Teacher's College format of writing workshop - mini lesson, independent writing (while teacher confers with individuals or small strategy groups), mid-workshop teaching, and share time at the end. Today, I want to focus on the part of workshop that has the biggest impact on your student's growth as a writer - the conference.

Before getting into how a writing conference works, an important part of your writing workshop is management. Many teachers feel uncomfortable with the idea of conferencing with just a small group or individual while the rest of the class is given free reign to work. I admit, I was one of those teachers! When I first started "my version" of writing workshop, I wasn't allowing children to work as independently as they could and instead children were "waiting" for me to finish conferencing until I could meet with them so they could move on - it was a mess!

So, I now spend a huge chunk of my time in the beginning of the year teaching students the routines of independent writing to hold themselves accountable and how to be "problem solvers". This continues throughout the year, as new problems arise, or just depending on the group of students I have. Giving students the tools to solve their own problems will help stop them from interrupting conferences! That is very important - that your conference is one-on-one, undivided attention, student-teacher time. Many teachers use special hats or lights to show that they are busy and can't be interrupted. I find success using threatening teacher stares and over-the-top dramatics such as pretending to faint when a student "wastes their precious writing time". There are always going to be your less productive, distracted/distracting students, but it's also a good idea to use observations on these students to help find ways to help them manage their independent time better as well. Whether it's a responsible partner who can hold them accountable, a (reasonable) writing goal that they have to meet by the end of the period, or a reward system - do not give up on independent writing time! It is SO empowering to young writers!

Now, the conference. Your conferences should follow a predictable routine - Research, Compliment, Teaching Point, and Link. These components are all important in effectively making a writing goal and leaving the most impact on your student.

I like to conference with every child at least once a week, as well as check in with them during mini lessons and strategy groups. In order to keep track of my students progress during the unit, I use a "Conference Notes" page for each student, which I developed with help from our school's literacy coach and through my courses at Teacher's College. The notes page has a space for each component of the conference as well as a space for "additional notes" - where I mark down other areas I want to work on with my writer. This helps me pull strategy groups during the week. You can grab this freebie in my "Writing Conference Freebie Packet" - see below! My writing binder has tabs for every student so that I can monitor their progress towards certain goals over time.

I also like to leave behind notes for the writer, so they know what they should be working on to become a better writer! With the younger students, I've found using post-its most effective. I stick the post-its on the "Writing Goals" sheet below and when they meet their goal they can celebrate by adding their name to it and sticking it on a "Super Writers" chart in our classroom. I also created a "writing goals" worksheet for older students, too. You can snag both of those worksheets in my "Writing Conference Freebie Packet", by clicking the image below.

Many teachers have other ways to celebrate these milestones and have shared on Pinterest - here are two I thought were really cute!

If you wish to hear more about how a writing conference is structured, leave a comment below! In the meantime - if you live in the Northeast - stay safe in the snow!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Feature Spin

We are finally getting back into routines after a crazy week of snow! New Jersey has been clobbered lately and we just had our fifth snow day last Wednesday. Crossing my fingers for better weather!

One of our routines is Word Study. Our school uses Words their Way for spelling instruction. Students are grouped by ability (I had three groups in the beginning of the year and now have four) and rotate through centers each day for two weeks.
One of the centers is a game or activity. I try to mix up it and often scour Pinterest and TPT for ideas. Sometimes I go to Catie's room to see what she's got. Sometimes you gotta invent the wheel yourself, though!

I created Feature Spin for my group of Syllables and Affixes that concentrated on adding -ing to words with VCe and VCC patterns. This is Sort 3 in the green book for those of you that use this program. 
Students draw nine word cards that  follow the four patterns (VCe, VCC, VCe-ing, VVC-ing) and place them on a grid. Each player takes turns spinning and takes a card off their board that matches the feature they land on. The object of the game is remove all your word cards first. It works great with a small or large group! You can pick up this game for free here.

Thanks for stopping by! Would love to know what spelling program you use and if you like it.