Thursday, October 29, 2015

Thursday Thoughts: Wordless Books & Writing

My teacher partner and I were in a writing rut! Our students needed a short and simple way to practice realistic fiction writing skills. Then, we had this brain child... could we use wordless picture books as a backdrop or "bookdrop" as I like to call it for their writing. This would eliminate some of the brainstorm stages that we practice with other pieces.

This summer, through the amazing Stacey at Literacy for Big Kids, I discovered the amazing picture book - Bluebird by Bob Staake. I wasn't sure how I wanted to use it in my classroom at the start of the year so I put it in my mentor text box and sort of forgot about it. After going through book after book for ideas last Friday -- my partner and I came across my copy of Bluebird. After reading the first few pages again, we both instantly knew that our unit had to center around Bluebird!

After "reading" the book on Tuesday, we started our mini-lessons on Wednesday. It was time to see if our idea was going to take root with our students! One of our first lessons was to focus on using show-not-tell to make readers feel part of the setting. We used Ralph Fletcher's Hello, Harvest Moon as our author's mentor text. I typed up the text for each student. As I read I did a lot of modeling and noticing. As I read and did my think aloud, students followed along and highlighted for setting details, figurative language, and vivid verbs.

We talked about how Mr. Fletcher chose the "best" words to describe the harvest moon. {Seriously, this book is sooooo great!} So, it was our duty to give our best words to Bluebird. I let students choose their favorite scene from Bluebird to offer choice and I put a few of my favorite pages on the SMARTboard for those that needed less choices.

I did write an example using the very first page of the story. I think showing that I'm a writer and {definitely} not the best writer, really helps boost some confidence in my reluctant writers.

Here's my example:

Then, I set a timer, put on some Piano Guys, and let them write for me. 

So what was the result? I was absolutely blown away by my students' use of author's craft plus they were excited to give Bluebird words! No moans or groans and even my reluctant writers were putting words on a page!

My final thoughts? It just goes to show the power of a story, with or without words. I can't wait to see more of my students writing using our favorite scenes from Bluebird. We're going to be working on characterization, dialogue, and show not tell next week.

What are your thoughts on using wordless books in the classroom?


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Read Aloud Magic

I'm between book club novels right now... So, what's a teacher to do? I know my students are reading and thankfully, my students are AVID readers this year. But after our shared connections & conversations during Rules, I wanted a way for my classes to connect through a novel without putting together an entire book club. So, I'm going back to basics with a magical read aloud. 

My book choice? 
Of course, I had to choose one my favorite books of the year - Crenshaw! My students and I had been counting down to the release and since it has an insane wait-list from the book raffle, I think they'll be super excited.

How am I going to make this a magical experience?

Today, I set the mood for Crenshaw's arrival. I put up my purple Christmas lights and plan on getting a black light before our reading on Thursday. Students all day today noticed and inquired about the purple lights. I told them they were from a special friend. 

I think one of the most magical thing for me, is knowing that I'm setting aside time to just read to my students. Don't get me wrong, I love Reader's Workshop and my book clubs but I'm so excited to share the pure joy and simplicity of reading. Sometimes, we just need to focus on the magic of the words! 

How do you conjure up reading magic?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Book Clubs: Keeping Kids Accountable

I've previously blogged about book club accountability {visit that post here} but I've really upped my game this year -- trying to diversify ways I can hold students accountable for the books they're choosing and reading in class.

A daily reading and page check in really help! This usually takes less than 5 minutes and holds students accountable for their reading!

Here's what my Reading Roll Call looks like! I usually keep track Tuesday-Friday but you could add a column for week long tracking. Grab your own copy {here}.

Getting to know your readers is really important. Just stopping to observe independent reading over a few days can give you a lot of information! Thankfully, Stacey from Literacy for Big Kids, has a wonderful and easy to use Status of the Class form to help keep observational data on our readers.

Check in quizzes help with the assessment piece of book clubs. Open ended quizzes throughout your 
reading hold kids accountable and allow you to "grade" their independent reading and comprehension. I've found that keeping quizzes simple helps with grading and checking basic understanding! Grab a copy from my Google Drive {here} - download and make it your own! 
How you do hold students accountable during independent reading?


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Teacher Trick for Ghoulish Behavior!

It's it's October and the time for tricks & treats, I thought I'd offer up a classroom management "trick" today as well as freebie "treat." I use an economy system to help reward and reinforcement individual behavior but I've also had a class competition as well.  This year we've had some ghoulish behavior for lots of little goblins... Thus, the class reward wasn't working! So, I decided to try something on a smaller scale.

So what am I doing that's helping with homework and behavior? Table Bingo! 

What's the incentive? A reward of some kind and NEW SEATS! It's amazing how well this took off with my fifth graders. I think the reward for new seats my be their favorite aspect of the entire reward!

I can't take all the credit, I got the idea from my blogging buddy and "sole" sister Lisa from Fourth n Ten. She does Behavior Bingo as a competition between her morning and afternoon blocks.

Here's how it works in my room:
I give out "squares" to entire tables when they clean up, follow directions the first time, follow directions on the board, are great for a sub or even if the entire table has their LA/SS homework! {gasp!} I give students a choice for homework completion but the other squares I will call "numbers" so if several tables follow directions I may say they can color in any number with a "5".... This keeps the game going or allows you to speed it up if necessary.
All boards are posted so students can see their table's progress. I also allow students to color in the squares for that ownership piece. They have been great about taking turns and "talking strategy" with each other.

Our first reward was a snack during class provided by me. Students were able to drink a soda {caffeine free} and have some baked chips as I taught LA/SS. I'm going to take suggestions for our next reward as well as offer my own suggestion of  a Week Off LA Homework! #WinWin

Here's my BINGO "go-to's" as freebie treat:


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Blog Redesign Giveaway!

To celebrate my BIG blog makeover, I'm hosting a giveaway! My new design by the amazing Alexis at Laugh Eat Learn makes me sooo happy! So, I want to share that happiness with all of your!  The giveaway will feature items that make me happy! Giveaway ends Friday! So get entering!
What makes me happy?
Enter to win a $15 Target gift card, The Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel, notepad, thank you notes, my favorite mechanical pencils, and a Dr. Sheldon Cooper bookmark!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good Luck!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Something big is coming...

Check back soon to to see what's coming.... 
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