Thursday, July 28, 2016

V.I.P. Club -- Very Informed Pupils

I'm introducing something new to my classroom this year: V.I.P.s.  I've seen lots of posts and pins about VIPs in classrooms being based on behavior, but that's not the kind of VIPs I'll be having.  I got this idea a couple winters ago, while watching school cancellations scroll across the TV...I saw a few local, rural districts, and curiosity got the better of me.  I ended up spending most of that snow day browsing random district websites and their teacher blogs or websites.  I saw this idea for VIPs on one of them and loved it.  I'm not sure why I'm just now ready to incorporate it into my classroom!

Basically, the VIPs in my classroom stand for Very Informed Pupils, and this challenge will take the place of the "What Do I Do Now?" board full of random worksheets and whatnot.  On my classroom website, I've made a page simply labeled V.I.P. (I'm not linking to my webpage, because it is mainly a place for my students and parents) When students click on this page, they'll find all of the tasks they can complete for the V.I.P. Club.  Students work on these independently, at their own pace, and at their own discretion.  They can complete as many or as few as they like, and in any order.  Some of the activities are very short, and a quick Google search will give them the answer.  Others require more work, such as memorizing the U.S. presidents in order or writing letters to former teachers.

Students will keep a V.I.P. folder with all of their work in it.  They're required to write the number and name of each task on top of their work, along with the date.  I'll come up with some simply tally sheet where I can keep track of their points/stars.  What I'm most excited about is the fact that after making the webpage, I don't have to do anything!  I don't have to print or send off for copies, or file, or organize!  It's all done by students, in their folders, with their notebook paper.  

Yes, some of these activities are very low on the DOK, but I really don't care.  Some of these things won't stick in their brains forever, but I really don't care.  All I want out of this is for my students to learn to value knowledge, even if it's briefly gained through Google or Wikipedia.  If I ever have a question about something, I'll go and research it myself, and I think that's a skill kids need.   Don't even get me started on the afternoon my sister and I spent researching Icelandic naming traditions for no apparent reason.  It's still something I know a lot about, and I've never been to Iceland, nor do I have any Icelandic heritage.  The point is, I wanted to know about Icelandic naming traditions for some odd reason, so I spent the time figuring it out.

I also think it's very, very sad that kids don't know things like the names of all the states, or continents, or Presidents, and so on.  These are things that we technically don't have time for during the day, but I believe they're important to know for the sake of knowing.

In the end, I think the V.I.P. Club will serve as a great way to keep my fast-paced learners busy learning.  And that will be beneficial in the long run.

P.S.  I know these pictures are small, and it's hard to see all of my wonderful V.I.P. tasks.  Sorry about that!  Basically, I just racked my brain about everything students should know by the end of 5th grade and made a list under each subject.  I also included some 4th grade review things, as well as some general knowledge.  Under the miscellaneous category, I have lots of tasks involving sports, celebrities, careers, colleges, and other interesting things.  I like that these lists are flexible, and I can add to them throughout the year.

Ha!  Just realized I actually blogged about VIP club waaaay back when I first started working on it!  You can read/copy/paste the ideas here!

It's #ThriftyThursday!

It's #thriftythursday over on TPT, and you know what that means!  My MEGA HISTORY BUNDLE is 25% off!  You can get ALLLLLL seven of my history interactive notebooks for a HECK OF A DEAL!

Hurry, because this offer is only available today!!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

#2forTuesday July 26, 2016

Each week throughout the summer, participating sellers will put two of their amazing resources on sale and all you have to do is visit Chalk One Up for the Teacher, check them out, and grab some great deals. You can also find the products directly on Teachers Pay Teachers by searching #2forTuesday.

(And, since my dentist appointment this morning got me off track, I'll keep these deals going in my TpT shop for 24 hours from now!)

I've listed two of my interactive notebook units (Westward Expansion and the Civil War) for only $7 for today's #2fortuesday!!!! Holy cow, what an incredible deal!  Hurry, though, because these prices will be gone before long!
Monday, July 25, 2016

"I Will Not Go to School Until August 1st..." (repeat)

All of my teacher friends have been returning to their classrooms to work, and I'm JEALOUS!  I want to go in and work in my room, but I've also promised myself that I won't set foot in school until August 1st!  I want to go...but I don't want to go...but I want to go!

So, to distract myself from the thought of returning to school in JULY...I've updated all of my interactive social studies notebooks.  I gave all of them a beautiful new cover, and even updated all of my bundles.  It took quite awhile, but I'm VERY, VERY happy with the results.

Check them out below, or in my TPT store, and let me know what you think!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

I Promise to Be Better!'s been quite awhile since I've posted!  This past school year was a whirlwind, and I can't believe that this summer is starting to wrap up.  I've had a very busy summer, which started waaaaay back on May 12!  Yes, that's right, we've been out of school since the middle of MAY.  And we don't officially go back until the middle of August.  We were blessed with no snow days last year and our new superintendent wanted to re-adjust the calendar with a later start date, so we lucked in to a FULL THREE MONTHS OF SUMMER.  Woah.

Let's see...I've spent some time on my grandma's farm, flew to Los Angeles for a week to see family, had my nieces visit twice, watched three days of the Olympic swimming trials in Omaha (including all TEN heats of the men's 1500m freestyle...about 15 minutes per heat!), relaxed on the beach in Gulf Shores, and spent lots of time just hanging out around my house.  Oh, and I picked raspberries in my back yard, GALLONS of black raspberries.

During my time at home, I've been busy working on new items for my TpT store.   I finished my Civil War interactive Social Studies notebook unit.  This was one of my favorite notebooking units to make, because the Civil War is one of my favorite time periods in history.  I have been researching my ancestors, and I have many relative that fought on both sides of the war.  I've always loved visiting Civil War battlefields, and visiting Gettysburg is on my bucket list.

Anyway, again, this unit is one of my favorites.  I have actually purchased Civil War units for my classroom in the past, because I didn't have one that I had made.  But, they always left me a little bit disappointed.  They usually focused on the prelude to the war, then two or three battles, and then wrapped up the war pretty quickly.  My 5th graders always LOVED reading about the battles, and would leave the unit thinking the war was over pretty quickly.  I created this unit to focus on many more battles.  Now, it's certainly not a comprehensive Civil War battle unit, as there were hundreds of battles and skirmishes, but I do include more than two or three!  You can read all about my Civil War interactive Social Studies notebooking unit here.

I've also just added a brand new item to my store.  For a long time, I've wanted to incorporate my writing instruction with Social Studies.  I started to do this at the end of last year, with great results.  My students wrote several different genres of writing to go along with our Westward Expansion interactive notebooking.  They researched, they wrote letters persuading family members to move to the West or not, and they wrote FANTASTIC first person narrative diaries.  They were able to take things they learned in Social Studies and apply it to their writing.  They REALLY understood what
 they were writing about, and they REALLY retained the information well, too!

So, I created some writing prompts to go along with my Geography interactive notebooking unit, since that's the unit I teach first.  (I'll be adding more prompts throughout the year, as I prepare to teach the unit)  This writing unit is a companion to my Geography notebooking unit, but it doesn't have to be used with it.  It can stand on it's own, but I believe students will get more out of it if they use the notebooking unit, too.  You can purchase the Geography Writing Prompts alone or with the Geography notebooking unit in a bundle. You can click here or on the picture below to view the Geography bundle.

This unit covers four genres of writing- descriptive, informative, persuasive, and narrative.  There are four different writing prompts, each with a detailed teacher directions page, graphic organizers, rough draft pages with a student checklist, decorative lined writing paper, and rubrics that feature a spot for student self-assessment, as well as teacher assessment and a place to write teacher comments.  All of these writing prompts are engaging and thought provoking, and they encourage students to take their growing knowledge of Geography to a deeper level.

And the final thing I've updated is my History Notebooking Bundle.  This includes all SEVEN of my history interactive notebooks- Native AmericansExplorersColonial AmericaAmerican RevolutionGovernmentWestward Expansion, and the Civil War, for one price.  You actually save enough money when buy the bundle, it's like getting 7 for the price of 6!  I'll also update this bundle as I add new units, so by purchasing the History Bundle, you'll be locked in for any new units at no additional cost to you!  It really is a great deal!

Now, I promise to be better at blogging this year.  I can feel the changes in my school district and I know it's going to be a fantastic school year.  I've got a great group of kiddos coming up, and I know they'll be as excited to learn as I am to teach them!  My co-teacher and I have a lot of great things already planned, and I'll be glad to share details about them soon!  Now, I'm off to enjoy my final full week of summer before venturing back to my classroom to begin to get ready for another school year!
Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A "Novel" Idea for Teaching Reading

After our soon-to-be-famous Snow Day Debacle, we have another, real, district-wide snow day tomorrow!  So, as promised, I'll delve into my revolutionary approach to teaching reading!

Here it is...are you ready?  I let my students read books of their choice.  I let my students read by themselves.  I let my students read with a group.  I let my students read along with our read aloud.  I encourage my students to read at home.  I challenge my students to read.  I read books they recommend to me.  They read books I recommend to them.  We read interesting news articles.  We read picture books.  We read novels.  We read poems.  WE READ.  A LOT.

So, how does this work?  Well, here is my daily 90 minute reading class schedule.  I think it's pretty awesome. 

15 minutes: Reading Quiz Group 1/ Everyone else free reads
15 minutes: Reading Quiz Group 2/ Everyone else free reads
15-20 minutes: Reading Instruction
25-30 minutes: Work Time
10-20 minutes: Read Aloud

Reading Quiz:
I found this idea when I was stalking a teacher's website at a high performing school in our state.  I thought it looked like a great way to spiral back on some previously taught skills, plus it would give students some practice reading and responding on the computer. 

Basically, I just found some short articles and created some open-ended responses to go along with them.  I created these on Google Forms, and it's been a great way to quickly track who has finished and who hasn't.  I get all the results on a Google spreadsheet, then I can sort by name, time stamp, etc.  This is great for quickly checking to see if my "repeat offenders" have completed their daily task. 

Free Read: 
Free reading is just as it sounds.  It's when students get the freedom to choose any book in my library, my co-teacher's library, the school library, the public library, a book from home, etc, and they get to read it.  I don't have formal reading conferences (because, as a student, I WOULD HAVE ABSOLUTELY HATED THOSE), but I check in with students sporadically to see what they're reading.  I also give lots of book recommendations.  One of my students has been stuck on graphic novels all year, and I'm trying to move her into reading books with more words.  So, recently, I recommended the Geronimo Stilton books, which still have pictures, but have bits of fun fonts, and lots more text than a graphic novel.

I really dislike most fantasy books, but I have one student who keeps recommending dragon books to me, so I've read some of them...mainly to hush him up for a couple of days...but he loves when I read books he recommends, and he loves to talk to me about the book.  I love this.  I think this is a hugely important part of reading instruction.  If I want kids to read books I recommend, I should read the books they recommend.  It builds a great reading community within our classroom, and it begins to creep throughout the class...students are recommending books to their classmates all the time!

Along with giving choice to the free read...I also take orders for new books.  I had a student who LOVED the book Savvy by Ingrid Law, so when she asked about the sequel, I told her I'd order it if it was in the next book order.  Well, there it was!  So I ordered it with bonus points, and put her first on the list to read it.  It's since been passed around to more readers. 

Reading Instruction:
We've been working on creating unit plans this year, which I really enjoy.  It's allowed me to really dig deep into concepts and push my students to really understand what they're learning.  I like being able to spend 3-4 weeks on ONE topic.  So far, we've focused on genres, main idea, theme, text structures, point of view, historical fiction.  Obviously, we've covered other standards within these topics, but the main focus is our unit.

I first spend some time working with my students to develop our success criteria for our learning intention.  This was a huge pain and time waster at the beginning of the year, but we can pound them out pretty quickly now.  These HAVE to be posted in our district...I don't know if they make students "smarter" or more focused, but we do it.  It still takes about 5 minutes to get through these.  Basically, we're taking an "I Can Statement," (which is now called a "Learning Intention"), and list what students need to do in order to be successful.

After that, we move on to modeling the skill, introducing an article, reviewing from the day before, etc.

Work Time:
I typically give my students an article or story to read on paper.  I make them annotate the text as they read.  They  can work with a partner or by themselves.  Some students love working together, and some love working alone, so I give them the freedom to choose how they learn best.  During this time, I monitor groups, check in with them, clear up misconceptions, have students explain what they're doing, and sometimes pull a small group of people who are struggling. 

Read Aloud: 
This is my favorite time of the day, and luckily, I get it twice, since I teach two reading classes!  During this time, I play an audiobook for the class, while everyone, even me, follows along in a copy of the book.  I've built up my read loud library through DonorsChoose projects and by scavenging the Saint Louis Book Fair (where I can get kids paperback books for $.25-$.50 and hardcover books for $1-$3!!!!).  Sometimes, I have students fill out a short read aloud log.  Mostly, we just discuss what we've read.  They NEVER have to fill out novel packets.  Who does that in real life?  Seriously? Who reads a book, but stops after every chapter to answer questions or write a summary...ick.

Book Clubs:
Twice a week, my students meet for 10 minutes to talk with their book club group.  I first started assigning students to groups based on their Lexile score, but recently, I've let them pick their own groups.  In book clubs, students choose from a list of books I have available, and all read the same book.  They decide on their reading schedule, too.  I give them three weeks to get the book done, and that's been more than enough for most groups (even the groups that have chosen Lightning Thief!). 

I usually have some type of accountability that students need to complete for book clubs.  I've changed this up almost every time.  Sometimes, they had to bring at least 3 sticky notes to share.  Other times, they had typical lit. circle jobs, and most recently, I've given them a booklet of reading response activities they can share.  I got these from a Scholastic book, and the students really have enjoyed them.  They've done different things, like create an award for a character and create scrapbooks for the book. 

For the next round of book clubs, I think I'm going to give students a task to think about and take notes on while they read, like theme or characterization.  Then, during book clubs, I'll have groups work together to create something, like a character sketch, or a movie poster.  It might take a little more time, but I think the conversations would be deeper, which is really my main point of book clubs. 

My school requires students to read at home for 20 minutes three times a week and record this on a reading log.  I also have my students log their time on Biblionasium, which tracks books they've read, minutes read, and number of pages read.  They like this, and they like sending book recommendations to each other!

So that's my typical day in reading class. WAIT!  WHAT ABOUT STATIONS AND GUIDED READING?  Sorry. You won't find those in my classroom.  Why?  I think they're a waste of time.  I've always hated reading stations in fifth grade, because it's simply busy work and socialization time.  I can think of SO MANY MORE things to do during that precious reading time that will actually benefit students than doing centers.

Does this actually work?  I guess so.  I mean, my SRI Lexile scores have SOARED THROUGH THE ROOF this year.  Right now, out of 42 fifth graders, we have 17 who scored over 1000 Lexile points, and 13 who scored between 830-999 points.  We were one of the lowest elementary schools in the district last year, and our scores have improved so much this year, that admin was bragging on us yesterday. 

I feel like this post is kind of scattered, but I'm basically calling it a brain spill.  I released all my knowledge about my reading class onto this page.  It may be sort of all over the place, and I may think of other things to add later, but I just wanted to share!
Saturday, August 2, 2014