Friday, January 31, 2014

Five for Friday

Five for Friday

I had four snow days this week. five for Friday may not be that exciting this week. BUT I promise it includes freebies and a giveaway! That has to count for something so I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for her weekly linky party. 

 I woke up Tuesday morning and tried to comprehend that yes, my text message was correct, and we were really out of school. I don't watch the weather so I never know what is suppose to happen. I hadn't been expecting snow, and there was no snow on the ground early Tuesday morning. But, at 9:00am the snow started, and it didn't stop until 8:00pm that night. My superintendent made such a good call, and I am really thankful that we were not trying to dismiss our kids that morning like so many other districts across the south. Today marks day #4 of no school this week. I am a little stir crazy, but I have been productive(somewhat)!

 My kiddos started subtraction this week. My early finishers got to work on this QR Subtraction Fun that I put together. Click the picture to grab your own copy! I get such a kick out of how excited the kiddos get when using the iPad to scan the QR codes. I will make a zillion if it keeps them engaged and excited about learning!

I bought the book Word Nerds this week and cannot wait to get started. Have you read it? Vocabulary is such an important skill, and I want to encourage myself and my students to work on it more in the classroom. I have been so inspired by Tara's posts at Forth Grade Frolics and knew that I had to buy it! PLEASE Mr. Postman...bring me some awesome mail!

 I am hosting a giveaway to win my nonfiction reading passages on weather. Enter for your chance to win! I blogged about how we are using the passages in my classroom here. Love, love, love it when kiddos have "ah-ha" moments in the classroom, and I saw a lot of them this week!a Rafflecopter giveaway  

Lastly, this popped up on the internet yesterday. It claims that my area could get anywhere from 10-12 inches of snow at the end of next week.
I really, really, REALLY hope that this doesn't happen. I am glad that the article said that it is only one model out of many and the possibility of it coming true is very slim. I need to get back to work with my kiddos. And, if we are out of school for four days due to 5 inches of snow.....just imagine if we get twice as much!

I am SURE your week was more exciting than mine, and I am heading on over to read all about it! 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Breaking down text and a Giveaway!

One of the biggest goals and focuses for my classroom this month(really, for the next 3 months) is to help my students feel confident and successful about reading and responding to text. So much of their yearly assessments requires them to read text that is on and above grade level---on their own. Yikes, I know! But, the purpose to get students reading and strengthening their comprehension goes so much deeper than that for me. As a teacher, I understand that students will be reading for the rest of their lives, and now, when they are in the lower elementary grades, we owe it to them to help prepare them for such a task. One of the best ways that I know to do this is to expose them to as much text as possible-both fiction and nonfiction. ALL. THE. TIME.

Like most elementary teachers, I spend a great deal of time helping my students build a foundation for reading by teaching strategies during the first half of the school year. A majority of our reading lessons are centered around me modeling a strategy over and over and encouraging students to work in small groups to discuss and practice the strategies together. Whole Group, small group, whole group, small group, individual assessment. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

But, the second half of the year brings a new approach. I end up spending a lot of time in small groups. I need to taylor instruction more individually because some students are soaring ahead, others are very behind, most are in the middle somewhere, and the needs are very different depending on what skills we are covering.
This week, we started discussing how to "dissect" text. I have a classroom full of boys so we related dissecting things in science to dissecting our reading passages. Gross, I know...but they got it. To start, we took reading passages and just talked about how great readers break down their text to help them better understand what they are reading. We used my Nonfiction Weather Reading Passages mini-unit to help us with this task. I modeled how I would dissect a text on the Elmo/Smartboard. We highlighted and flagged information until I thought the Smartboard was going to refuse to highlight and underline anything else. Later, we moved into small group time where I pulled out the highlighters and Post-It flags. (For some reason, you give a kid a Post-It note, and the world becomes a more exciting place. I have NO idea where they get this from. Certainly not me and my obvious obsession for all things Post-It.) The students learned about the importance of paying attention to word boxes and underlined words, how to flag answers in the text, and when to highlight/underline information that was important to the questions being asked of them on their own papers. Then, they had to answer the comprehension questions and cite their answers by giving specific paragraph and line numbers. It was hard work. I think I saw some sweat beaded on their brows(mine included) but they impressed me and asked when we were going to do it again. A lot, kiddos. We will be doing this a lot. 

It's going to be a long process, but I am really excited about how this is going to improve reading in our classroom. I'm curious as to if you have other exciting ways to model breaking down text like this! If you do...shoot me an email or leave a comment. I LOVE to hear from you. 

Now, if are you still with me at this point and just made it through that super long babble then BLESS YOU. I have a treat for you. I really want to give away my Weather Nonfiction Reading Passage Mini-Pack. It comes with four passages about types of dangerous weather. Each passage comes in two versions-below and on/above grade level as well as comprehension questions, graphic organizers, and a few science experiments to go with all of it. 

So enter below and I will pick a winner on Sunday. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Penguins and QR Codes

I cannot believe that I haven't taught a penguin unit before now! My kiddos love researching, and it was so much fun pulling together resources and lessons that are CCSS aligned, rigorous, and engaging. I have been DYING to blog about our penguin unit. With snow days and cold delays, the last few weeks have been a little hectic, but we managed to fit in our penguin thematic unit, and I wanted to share with you how it went!

Monday & Tuesday
On Monday and Tuesday, we conducted our research about penguins. First, we modeled how to record information. Then, I explained their centers and set them loose! They had four centers they could rotate through in two days(nonfiction books from our library, PDF book from Hollie Griffith, fact cards from Amanda Tervoort, and a penguin ThingLink that I made).   

I did not tell them to record specific information. Their goal was to record 20 facts each day, and they were encouraged to record information that they found interesting.

On Wednesday, we took all of the information that we had gathered and came together to create a web on Penguins using the Popplet app. I LOVE this app. Our goal was to create a brainstorming map that we could use when we started our research paragraphs. I helped the kiddos type it in this time, but look forward to them doing it on their own in the future. We put as much information as we could fit on one page. Then, we color-coded the information into categories. My favorite moment was when one student "politely" disagreed with another student's fact. "I disagree with Chris on his fact about how long it takes an egg to hatch. I found something different." This happened. No joke. So, we went back to the source and checked our information! **Proud teacher moment when accountable talk that is used in math discussions shows up in other content areas. 

                              Thursday & Friday
We began our writing on Thursday. I love holding writing conferences with my kids even though it takes a lot of time. My cottage teamie is REALLY good at teaching writing. I picked up a lot of the tools that I use now from her. First, the students took their notes that they recorded during their research and highlighted the facts that they wanted to use in their writing, then we used a four square graphic organizer to sort the information out into categories. 

After the first two writing stages, the students wrote a rough draft and a final draft. The kiddos conference with me after each stage. And yes, there are still spelling and grammatical errors in their final drafts. I am okay with that. I don't edit every single thing, because I want their writing to be authentic and student driven. However, if we have covered the skills in class or the word is in their spelling journals or on the word wall then it better be spelled correctly! :)  

A special thanks to The Teacher Idea Factory  for her cute penguin craft that we adapted a little. The students wrote "Did You Know?" facts on the penguin bellies! I love how they turned out!!

This unit was seriously a blast! It is also a great reminder that we can still use thematic units in class that are standards driven!! It is possible!!

In math news...

We are getting ready to move into our 2 and 3 digit subtraction with regrouping unit. This unit can get a little complicated because regrouping is a tricky concept. I am going to be doing a lot of whole group mini lessons with major small group instruction for this unit, and I wanted to create a center that would keep my students engaged while working with my small groups.

My kiddos this year LOVE QR codes. I have two little friends who beg me to make them new ones each week. So, I cooked up some QR code pages for subtraction that I can use as homework extensions and centers. Here is a sample of the product just for you. I LOVE freebies, and I am excited to share this one with you. Just click on my picture to download! If you want more options there is a product with more pages in my TPT store!

Thanks for reading! Have a great school week!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Five for Friday

This week was CA-RA-ZY!!!!! We, like most of the eastern region, had an extended holiday break thanks to the snow. With three snow days followed by a two hour delay, Friday just didn't feel like a Friday. Not that I am complaining, but it left me struggling to find my mojo the last two days. is a sneak peak into my "almost" no school week! Thanks to Doodle Bugs Teaching for hosting another awesome linky. 

I may or may not have acted like a five year old. It took me a whole day to recover. Glow sticks, foam pits, indoor dodgeball, trampolines EVERYWHERE. It was awesome. 

I am still on a technology junkie high. Right before Christmas, I got a Smarboard, Elmo, and wireless installed in the portable. I am in teacher heaven. I didn't realize how much I used it until it was gone, and we are OWNING learning in the classroom now that our technology is back. 

I have no idea what it is about the avatars with Class Dojo, but my kiddos LOVE those little monsters. I implemented the behavior program for the first time last year, and was shocked and relieved by what a difference it made in my classroom. Now that the wireless and Smartboard are back, I love that I can leave the screen up on my board while walking around the room giving feedback. I even take my iPad with me when we leave the portable and head into the big school because those transition times are when my friends like to push boundaries the most!  I introduced this year's class to the cute little monsters yesterday, and they are in love. It was the first thing they asked about when we started our morning share time. I started REALLY strong on feedback, and after two days we had 75% positive behavior. Here is to a happier classroom!

As a class, we have a lot of work to do between now and May to get ready for the big-o 3rd grade. A LOT of work. I am SO excited. Really, I am! I love to see the growth of learning that occurs throughout the year. But, my kiddos know it is crunch time. As a class "New Year" resolution, we made a list of things that we promise to do each day to help us become better learners. Our class promise is chanted each morning at the end of morning announcements. We even hold up the peace sign with our right hand in honor of second grade! Adorable. Anyways, I am sometimes never proud of my handwriting and decided to turn our class promise anchor chart into a picture that I could project on the board. 


Another thing that is soooo 2013 is Ms. Young hunting down missing work. I usually have the students put work that they owe me on a clipboard, but that is just not cutting it this year. So, I told this kids "Not finished? It's homework!". Shocker...I know, but I hadn't done that to my kiddos this year. And, I knew that if I didn't keep a paper trail of what papers needed to be taken home to be completed then this plan would never work. So, I thew together these little reminders. Just staple and GO! Let's hope this works! I will try to make this a freebie asap. 

Have a great weekend!

Friday, January 3, 2014


I am slightly addicted to new apps and love discovering fun ways to use them in my classroom. I get really excited when I find an app to use that is going to allow students to be in control of their own learning experiences. Don't get me wrong...I love the simple "game" format apps, but I think apps that allow a lot of room for creativity and exploration are even better. So..I just HAVE to share one of my new favorite apps with you.

What is ThingLink?
ThingLink is a FREE web-based program that allows you to make images come alive by embedding links within the image. It also has an app that can be downloaded to an Andriod or Apple device. The program is very user friendly, and you can create interactive images for your students to use within minutes!

How can it be used as a classroom tool?
The classroom possibilities with this app are endless. Next week, students in my classroom will begin their research on penguins. My kiddos will be using Thinglink to help them explore and record information on penguins that they will need to help them write a report on these animals.

I like to present the app in two ways. One, is to let a small group explore the interactive image together on the Smartboard. The second option is to allow the students to navigate the image individually on an iPad. The students can explore the "touches" or dots in any order or you can create an image that has numbers included so they know which touches they should explore first. 

Here is an interactive one that I created to help my students learn more about penguins.Try it out! Have some fun. Let me know if you use it differently!

Hope this app sparks creativity in your classroom!