Thursday, November 20, 2014

Turkey Time! Keep Activities Meaningful During Thanksgiving Festivities

I don't know about you, but the week before Thanksgiving is one of the more challenging of the school year. In my district, we have parent-teacher conferences right before the break, which means I have an added layer of objectives to reach this week.

Don't get me wrong -- I LOVE parent-teacher conferences because I get to brag on my students to their greatest fans. But, I have a lot to do if I want to gather meaningful work samples which serve as formative assessments, and complete summative assessments that will direct our progress forward.  (I love using my assessment journal this time of year because the assessment pages give me so much information about my students' progress!)

In other words, this week, I need to...

  • test kids
  • get last minute work samples
  • keep them engaged
A couple of years back, I made a goal to transform Thanksgiving week away from being activity-based (meaning, a lot of things to do, but not a lot of substance), to being instructional activity-based (meaning, the things we do have a meaningful, instructional purpose).  

One of the things I came up with is this cute turkey craftivity that focuses on research and informative writing skills. The kids are loving Turkey Time, and I love the time I get while they are working on their research, writing, and craftivity!

I tie the theme together with fiction turkey books. A class favorite is Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr.  The kids love calling out "Run, Turkey, run!" 

I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving, and that week leaded up to it isn't too stressful!  Enjoy your family time!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Spotlight! Harvest Time Center Activities

Today I'm putting the spotlight on one of my favorite products for fall.  It's on sale for 20% this week.

I especially love this one the week before Thanksgiving break -- when I am getting ready for parent-teacher conferences.  These center activities are the perfect way to keep students meaningfully engaged while I assess individual students.

This set includes everything you need to set up a center routine. 
•5 math centers
•5 ELA centers
•a list of recommended thematic literature and informational text connections
•display cards (to use on your center rotation schedule and materials tubs)
•blank student name cards (for your center rotation schedule)
•student/center rotation tracking form

Each activity comes with...
• cover page
• activity cards
• cards holder label
• directions card
• response worksheet

Next, I'm putting the spotlight on my of my favorite stores!  Check out 3 Sassy Sisters! 

This trio of sisters creates bright, colorful classroom displays, and high quality thematic activities to keep students engaged. I love their stuff! You can follow them on Facebook and at their blog. They are fun, creative, and energetic!

Would you like to join the Sunday Spotlight linky? Hop on over to Countless Smart Cookies. Here's what you do:

Here's how SUNDAY SPOTLIGHT works: 

1. Pick a product to spotlight from your TpT store. Put the products on sale for at least 24 hours. The amount in which you discount is completely up to you. Write a description in your blog post about your product(s)! If you have multiple products you'd like to spotlight, go for it! If you want the product to stay on sale for a longer time, go for that too! 

2. Pick another TPT-er to spotlight! Post a description of their store, put the link of the store/Facebook/blog/any social media site they use to your post. Encourage your readers to follow the teachers you spotlight and leave feedback! We wouldn't be the great teachers we are if we didn't collaborate, right? ;) -RIGHT! What you share with your readers is up to you and the seller! 

Have a great weekend, and enjoy finding some new teacher creators to follow!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

You Oughta Know About a Reading Group Tool Kit

For today's "You Oughta Know..." blog hop, I decided to write about a tool kit I've been using with my reading groups.  You would think that I'd have figured this out earlier.  Such a simple solution to a complex problem!

The problem: keeping my students engaged during reading groups. I'm not even talking about the rest of the class (I use work stations to keep them engaged).  I'm talking about the four kids who have to sit and listen while one student reads a page orally.

The solution: I created a reading group tool kit with things I had around the classroom. Suddenly,  my students are engaged, even when they are not the one reading orally.

The Tool Kit:

  • transparent discs
  • craft sticks and googly eyes
  • dry erase markers and clear transparency film
  • rubber bands

Here's a quick over view of how I use the tools:
  • Transparent Discs (the kind we used to use with overhead projectors): Have students pre-read the text. They mark words according to your directions. In this reading, I had students mark all the words they knew by sight.  Sometimes, I have them mark specific word patterns or sight words. On other days, I'll have them color code words (i.e. they mark sight words red and phonetic patterns blue).  The advantage is that I can quickly assess what as student thinks they know so I can focus their attention on decoding strategies.
  • Craft Sticks + Googly Eyes = Tracking Stick (to help you keep your eye on the words...): Glue a googly eye to the end of the craft stick.  Have students use the tracking stick while other students are reading the text. Again, it provides me with a quick assessment of who is actually tracking while another student reads orally.  

  • Dry Erase Markers + Clear Transparency Film  (I'll upload a photo when we use this tool next week): Have the students pre-read the text for decoding. Have them each place a piece of transparency film over the page, and mark the page (per your directions) with the dry erase marker. Example...mark the words with a specific cvc pattern, or circle the punctuation mark that shows excitement. Again, you've got a quick visual assessment of what they students can do.
  • Rubber Bands: We use lots of terms when reminding kids to use a variety of strategies.  "Tap it," "Chunk it," "Stretch it..." The rubber band provides a visual and kinesthetic tool to stretch words out to hear the sounds. They love it! (So far, no one has shot a rubber band at someone else!)
What tools do you have in your reading tool kit?