Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ain't Nobody Got Time for That!

Do you LOVE lapbooks and interactive notes? I LOVE using interactive notes however let's be honest, it can take FOREVER to cut out the pieces and get students to glue the items into their notebooks. This teacher ain't got time for that this year! We've lost some teaching time with a new push for a longer RTI block and our schedule this year is completely unforgiving... We've all been there right? So, I've been looking for ways to cut corners but still do the valuable activities I love!

What's the solution?
Take those interactive activities and put them at stations or have students work on them in table groups! I'm still having students glue in important notes but practice or "fun" activities, we've been doing them as table groups. This helps cut wayyyy down on the time it takes to set up our interactive activities!
For today's genre sort activity, I prepped the activity by cutting and gluing down the pockets to neon construction paper.This was a pretty quick task since I could use the paper cutter to cut the rectangular pockets and square cards. I was able to make 10 sets in about 15 minutes. The extra 15 minutes was well worth my time because it meant my students could go straight to the sorting and discussing part of the activity!

Last Year vs. This Year: Last year I had each student glue in the pockets and cut out FOUR pages of books to sort... This year I decided that all the kids didn't need this activity in their notebooks. I wanted the to have the genre notes but they didn't need to the sort all year. Plus, I have them write down "good" books on their books I want to read list.

Last year:
This year:
Afterwards, we bagged up the cards and the pockets so I can use them again next year!

If you want to try out this genre sort activity, it's available as part of Lovin' Lit's Reading Interactive Notebooks!

Happy "Prepping"!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What's in the Bag?

I saw several bloggers posting about their teacher bags and since I haul mine back and forth just about every night, I thought I'd share my teacher cargo! First, let me say, I love my new Vera teacher bag! This one has the most comfortable straps...EVER! Thank you, Vera Bradley!
What's in my bag?

Test Correction Slips: I always carry my test correct slips with  me. I place these on any test or quiz under a 70%. Students have 1 week to correct the assignment for a 70%.

Backpack Paper Organizer: I found this amazing backpack paper organizer at Target! It's a lot smaller than a normal flex-file. I also like that it stands vertical. I have it organized by homeroom teacher along with keys & late work. I also made a cute laminated "cover" for my flex-file since it's nearly clear.

Pencil Pouch: I already have tons of pens and markers at my house but I bring my favorites home. Inside my pencil pouch I have my Crayola Powerlines, mechanical pencils, Flairs, Post-its, and a granola bar.

Folder: I keep a folder in my teacher bag for anything I need to copy. The folder helps keeps my copies safe and I can go directly to the copier when I arrive at school without stopping by my classroom.

Notebook: I keep my Erin Condren Notebook in my teacher bag. It's great for bringing to workshops or department meetings. I also like that I can write down my To Do Lists and jot down any notes I need to remember. It's a great way to keep track of my school life at home!

Umbrella: I never seem to have one when it rains. Now, I'm carrying all the time. Enough said.

What's in your teacher bag? What are your essentials?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Book Raffles! #Excitement

Looking for a way to bring some excitement into the classroom? 
Try a book raffle! One of my blogging besties, Literacy for Big Kids,  is a book raffle pro! After reading her posts last year, I just had to try it out myself!

Plus, I just hit the mother load of books from our first Scholastic Book Order...
So after sorting and organizing the books... I chose five books from our Scholastic order and  Crenshaw from Amazon to put in our raffle! I made sure to give a few book talks yesterday to get the kids really excited about our raffle!

Here's the end result of our raffle... 
Please note: I had every blogger intention to take photos of the adorable set up... but then life and teaching happened. My step up included these $1 buckets from Target and this book stand, also from Target.
Students took all the books home to be the FIRST reader! My two Crenshaw winners know they will get their copies in the morning and until then we have a stand-in in place!

Students were so excited to be the FIRST to check out new books! They also loved that EVERYONE was able to participate or hold their tickets for an upcoming book raffle! Both classes begged me to draw the tickets before the end of the year! #Excitement. The next questions was, "When's the next book raffle?"

Need quick tickets? Click {here}.

I just printed on Astrobrights for a pop of color and so kids could find them if they were saving them in their pencil pouch.

Here's some things to remember if you're planning your own book raffle! 
How do you keep the #excitement alive in your classroom?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Book Sale: Game Plan!

This weekend, Half Price Books is hosting a huge clearance sale event on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday! Whether you have a Half Price Books or not, it's always good to have a game plan when building your classroom library. I know I've walked away with books I don't need or buy duplicates because I go into a sale blind and get overwhelmed by all the books.

Here's a few tips to help you score big on your next book buying trip!
Have a strategy. I make a list of favorite authors, series, and books I'm looking for before going into any book store. I find this helps me focus on books I'm needing for my classroom library. I also write down future book club topics and the numbers in a series I'm currently missing.

This year one of my big game plans was to look for lower level novels. I've done a great job at building up grade level and above novels but I'm in some series need of below grade level reads in the classroom. Before hitting the sale, I wrote down series like June B. Jones, Stink, and Horrible Harry that I wanted to look out for!

It's also important to know what you're getting into. If you're shopping a huge warehouse sale, get a map and know where you're going!
I also make note of favorite authors. A few of my favorites that I'm always looking for: Sarah Weeks, Margaret Petterson Haddix, Roland Smith, Sharon Creech, Wendy Mass, Patricia Riley Giff, Lauren Tarshis and Mike Lupica. I'm also on the lookout for popular series like Stranded, IQ, or I Survived -- those are always popular check-outs in the classroom.
Then it's time to make your selections before heading to the checkout! Know your budget and decide what is a keeper and what goes back to the benches!
So how did I do? I ended up spending $49 on 41 new books for my classroom library! I didn't think $1.20 was too bad for most books. I added books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever that sells for $8 at Scholastic. I paid no more than $2 per book and some books were as low as .50 cents. I bought mostly fiction but I did find two nonfiction books to add to my library.  Plus, I was able to find a small book club set of Fourth Grade Rats and some new copies of Love that Dog for $1 to replace my overly "loved" copies.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Five for Friday: Back to School Edition!

Who doesn't love back to school?! We've actually been back for over a month now, what!? I haven't been about to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching since I've been back so I thought I'd give a snapshot of our year so far! So here's my back to school Five for Friday!

We are currently in the start of our Character Reading Unit. We're reading Rules together as a class! I shared this video about Autism with my class. Such a great way for students to understand how different people can see the world!

In the middle of our Native American Unit. We loved using Brain Wrinkles Native American Cultures Powerpoint to kick off our study of ancient Native Americans. We really enjoyed learning about the Woodland & Mississippian cultures! 
We are counting down until the release of Crenshaw! All fourth graders read The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, so my fifth graders are soooo excited for Crenshaw! I may have given them some teasers and shared my EXCITEMENT for this book as well! I'm planning my first book raffle for the release! 
Native American Word Wall is going up! Students really understood the concept of a region this year! Love the way this group made their picture clue... Vocabulary Rock Stars! 
We launched our Character Book Clubs just last week! Students are flying through the books! So, far this group of fifth graders are loving graphic novels like El Deafo and Smile.  My student are also digging Lisa Graff's novels Absolutely, Almost and The Thing About Georgie! One of my sweet girls keeps me updated on her The Thing About Georgie status... She read 6 chapters in a night which is quite the feat for this reader! I can't thank all my book loving friends for all the great recommendations. Teaching students how to celebrate and choose books is SO important! 
Read more about my book clubs {here}.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Managing Your Book Collections!

A successful book club needs books! I've been slowly growing my book stash over the past 9 years. I've made trips to the library and sent emails asking for extra copies of books from teacher friends but finally, my collections has grown enough for students to check out books from my secret stash of books.

Here's a peek into my secret book club stash...
So how do I keep all these books organized?
To be honest, at first I wasn't so organized with all my book club collections. But, I'm trying to be much more intentional about my books and organization. First, I started off by putting all the books for the same book club in the same cabinet. That was an easy step to help me stay organized! Then I started making a collection roster to put in my "Reading Teacher Binder." I can instantly check how many books I have for each book club topic. I also created a wishlist this year for books that need replaced or books to meet levels of my current students.

My Organizational Sheets

You can download them {here} from my Google Drive.

Jotting down how many books you have keeps your from purchasing books you already have. I've also found that jotting down how many students you have in certain reading level ranges helps for knowing what books you may need to purchase in the future. The wishlist is also a great bring along to book stores and department meetings. When I hear a great book that may fit into one of my book clubs, I jot it down so that I can look up the reading level and more about the book! I often bring my book club lists with me to Half Price so I know what I have and what I need... It's a simple way to keep track of your "stash" and manage your collection. 

How you do you manage your "collections" of books?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Book Clubs & Struggling Readers!

Thank you all so much for the kind words after my Book Club Crash Course post! I greatly appreciate it! I did have several questions though about how I handle struggling readers...
So, let's chat about students that are at least two levels below grade level and need that "extra" help! I have three go-to solutions to help make book clubs a success for all students! Here's a few of my tricks to get that "buy in" from those reluctant or struggling readers.
First, I tell those students that I have a "top secret" book choice for them at that's not on our original list. I try to have at least 2 choices but sometimes depending on their level and the amount of kids - it's not always so easy. After getting them excited about a top secret book, I show them a trailer for their NEW book. This usually gets a lot of buy in - if students still seem hesitant then I try and find another book. Usually between the words "top secret" and a special preview, I don't have to do too much more persuasion.

This year's top secret choice for all my ELL boys is Stink!
I'm so thankful that Half Price books had a set of FIVE of the same book! {It was 20% off weekend!}
Secondly, this group has book club with the teacher days. They're going to be Book Club VIPs because they get special reading time with me! I will read with this group for the first few sessions of book club to make sure everything is getting started off with a clear understanding. We'll read through some difficult chapters and look up any challenging vocabulary. Last year, I made the mistake of just going by reading levels for some books -- we ended up reading Touch Blue because it's a Q in my group. However, words like wharf, dock, tide, and inlet were completely foreign to my Ohio readers. So we had to take some time to understand the geography of our setting and look up new words on the iPad so we could "see" some images of these places. I can't read with them everyday during book club because I could never do conferences. So, after the first few sessions, they do read on their own since the books are at their level, however, they usually come to my back table and work with me or as a group on the practice for the day. This gets more and more independent as students demonstrate understanding.

I'm also super lucky to have an amazing Support Educator, teaching partner, and super paraprofessional that are willing to help with students! Usually, we can make several groups based on reading level to make sure everyone has a spot in our reading community!
Lastly, I pull out the "big" ticket item... I download all my lower level books on my iPod! My students BEG for iPod days. This allows some of my less fluent readers to keep up and my ELL students to "hear" their books for mood, tone, etc. This was such a huge part of the buy-in last year for my struggling readers. They loved getting to listen to their books. I bought several of the Belkin headphone splitters so between my old iPod and my really, really, really old iPhone - we had all students in my group covered. This also worked well for days I couldn't read with the group or I was out sick. I trained them all how to operate the books I downloaded and off they went! Plus, to many students it still looked as though they were "reading" quietly like everyone else. I found that this really helped a lot of my students - they didn't need to listen to every chapter and every book, but those few listening sessions a week really helped them build that foundation for comprehension.

How do you include your struggling readers into your reading community?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Book Club Crash Course!

I get a lot questions on social media about my Book Clubs! I thought I'd do a quick crash course on all things book clubs on the blog! I've done "book clubs" in many ways. They started out as small lunch groups then grew to small groups during our "intervention" period. Today, I run my Reader's Workshop using book clubs.
The biggest reason I've found for students "hating" reading is that often they don't know how to choose books. They choose books that are too hard, too easy, or just not interesting to them. TONS of prep work goes into picking the right books for book clubs. I also take student feedback from the previous year into account to help me select a wide variety of books. I always start with a theme or topic, for example our first book club this year focuses on understanding characters. So, all the books I choose MUST have strong main characters.

Then it's time to start reading and researching (checking Scholastic, Nerdy Book Club, asking students, friends, etc.) to find those perfect books! I think choice is super important so I try to have a large variety of book suggestions for my students. They need to feel like they are getting a "say" in the books they want to read for book club in order to have that buy in! They can still read another book on their own but they must read at least one of my choices during the unit. Many students once we're into the unit and everyone is reading often choose to read more than one at the recommendation of their peers! #happyteachermoment

Here's some of this year's picks for our Character Unit:

Here's the letter we sent home to parents:
{Check out the full letter here}

My teaching partner and I model with a read aloud of similar genre and theme. For our character unit, we read a book with a strong lead character. Also, for this unit, most books focus on a character with a disability or taking care of a someone with a disability.

This is how the first 30 minutes of my reading block looks:
- Show teaching point.
- Read from read aloud.
- Model teaching point.
- Group practice with teaching point using read aloud.

Most of my lessons come from Lucy Calkins' Units of Study for Teaching Reading (Grade 5). I make sure I can align the lessons to the Common Core and modify them as needed.
The second half of my reading block is for independent student reading and practice. Students have time to read each day during class and then have a focus for reading that day. Sometimes practice is posting to our "Jot Lot", journal prompt, or completing an exit ticket. Some days it's using what we learned to better understand our books. If a mini-lesson is running long or students are having issues, then we often extended the reading and practice into a second day with no "new" lesson or teaching point. During this time, I run individual conferences while students are reading and responding.

Example practice in our notebooks:
For this activity we completed the tone and mood for Rules as a class. Now, students are trying to figure out the tone and mood for their book club novel using our example and notes.
Every Friday (or so) we get together and meet in Book Clubs! Just like book clubs in real life, we don't meet every day so we set a date and make it a special occasion. Students know they can always ask others who are reading the same book for help and support but we don't officially meet in clubs until Friday. On Fridays, we usually have a topic or assignment that students work on together while discussing their books. Since students can be at all different points in the book they often break off into small groups or work together if someone is having difficulty with a section.
My partner and I do lots of modeling and floating around the room. We try not to facilitate discussion on book club days but rather give feedback. Having an assignment or prompt, really helps.  Many fifth graders are still learning how to discuss books and an guided activity helps pull out those rich discussions!

You can check out my post about how I launch book clubs {here} or how I hold students accountable {here}.

What does reading instruction look like in your room?
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