Incorporating Speaking and Listening Standards in Science

I'm so excited to share these posters! As part of our unit on the solar system, we jigsawed the planets (and sun, asteroid belt, and moon). Students worked in groups of two or three creating a poster about their planet or object in the night sky. However, our expectations were clear... I use "our" because I have an absolutely phenomenal student teacher who has lit a fire in our classroom - she's ah-mazing! Groups were given articles and/or books to reference and one day's time during science to pull out four "freaky, fun facts" to share with the class. We were looking for anomalies and off-the-wall facts (anything other than Saturn has rings, or Mercury is hot). 

I am thrilled with what they discovered! As student groups presented, the rest of the class took notes on their freaky, fun facts. They also complimented the presenters. I was pleased with how excited students were to present and also the amount of notes taken were pretty impressive! They thoroughly enjoyed each other's fun facts. 
We have created a rubric with which to score their posters, and also required symbols for each fact in order to help cement the fact easier in students' minds. For example, Neptune's poster as seen below has symbols of methane gas, dark clouds, the sea, and a cyclone the size of Earth. These all coincide with this group's fun facts about Neptune.  
 After presenting and gallery-walking to make sure students all took down at least 3 facts from each object in the sky/planet, we'll use a scoring rubric for their posters which includes points for citing their sources and including original symbols to represent each fun fact. We'll ask students to write down as a quick-write later on what they'll remember about these planets as a segway into our constellations and space exploration unit. I was so happy with what these fifth graders accomplished!

Butterfly Life Cycle - Now with Vocabulary cards!

I've just updated my All About Butterflies bundle to include vocabulary cards! Click on the link to my store or image below to download for your primary students.

I hope you love this as much as I do. 

Teachers Pay Teachers is Having a SALE!!

Can you believe it?? A site-wide SALE on TpT! I don't know about you, but my wish list is LONG.

Don't forget the promo code at check-out for additional savings.

Click on the picture or link to shop my store!



Holding Students Accountable Through Self-Reflection: A Peek into My Classroom

Holding students accountable for their one learning is a crucial part of creating successful learners. Students should be taught responsibility from a very young age, and should also reflect on their learning throughout the day. You've often seen the scales or rubrics asking students to rate themselves on a particular learning goal or objective. I love using scales when informally assessing students. However, I've also created a Weekly Self-Reflection for students to complete (or teachers if the students are too young) to be sent home each week. 

Let me show you why this works for me. 

First of all, I found myself drowning in paperwork, especially reading work. Each week, my fifth graders have a myriad of assignments to complete during Literature Group time. When they aren't meeting with me or their Literature Circle, they are working on their "Reading Menu" of activities. These include activities pulled from CCSS, and supplementals from Time for Kids magazine for  nonfiction exposure.  This menu of activities can't always be completed in one sitting, especially on the days when they are meeting with their Literature Circle.  They just don't all have the same amount of time each day to complete assignments. I felt it a challenge to know when to collect work from students, and when to allow them more time as needed. Now, I assign work on Mondays, and it is due each Friday. This way students have time to complete their "seat work" at their own pace, take home as needed, and not feel overwhelmed and rush through a particular assignment. It's also easier for me to collect all of their reading work once a week. Then I can do a quick check to see who happens to have "lost" something, or is missing an assignment. 

More on how I collect their work in a minute. 

Secondly, Spelling Test/Reflection-all-on-one. Each Friday, before they turn in all of their completed assignments for reading ( I also collect spelling and writing homework for the week on Fridays,) we take our spelling test using the template below. Students partner-check by signing their name next to the heart on the bottom of the page. I tell students that I have the deciding say, but they preview their partner's words and save me a lot of time in the process! Students enjoy knowing their grade before they leave on Friday, but I still keep their Spelling Test until Monday so that I may enter grades on Friday afternoons (or Monday mornings - eek).  On the back of the spelling test, I like to create a weekly math quiz as well. These are formative in nature and help me tremendously as I plan for the following week. The quiz is usually no more than four or five questions and is a cinch to grade.  

As they finish up their test, they know to silently begin to gather the week's work from their ongoing-work folders inside their desks. This always includes their homework in spelling and writing, menu of activities, and usually a math investigation or writing piece worked on in-class that they need to wrap up for me.  I like to sequence the activities on the board for them in a list, which makes it even easier to flip through really quickly to see what is missing. 

Before they hand in their work to me, they complete the right side of the page. This is their academic and behavioral self-reflection. When I taught younger grades, I alternated between self-reflections and teacher reflections. This weekly progress report goes home with the students on Monday, is signed by parents, and is returned by Wednesdays. Students know to be honest about what work they are missing and/or did not complete (such as a chapter in their Literature Group book, or missing spelling homework). They also rate themselves behaviorally on a 1-4 scale. I always tell them to aim for a 3 on the scale, and using my classroom management system (similar to clip chart but with fewer colors), they also know if they earned less than a 3. Again, it's great to hold students accountable for their own learning and behavior. Additionally, I have the opportunity to check in with students as we reflect on the week together. 

Okay, how to collect. After all of their work is gathered together, I pass out their blue Parent Folders, and they file all of their work into their folder and into their mailboxes as seen below - they don't even hand anything to me. I know what you're thinking, they are "cubbies", but we prefer to use the more upper elementary lingo. Here's the most exciting part- my mailboxes are in alphabetical order! This means that students file their folders, and immediately I know who is missing something (as in, their mailbox is empty). I can now grab their folders out of their mailboxes, take them home to grade over the weekend, and enter grades easier since it's already organized by name.

Of course, there are always students who move or are enrolled after the school year starts, so my mailboxes are never perfectly alphabetized. But they are close. 

These mailboxes are paper organizers from an office supply store. They are sold in stacks of eight, so I need four bundles. Then I clip them together using binder clips to keep them in place and label them with their names. These last a few years before I need to replace them. 

After I grade all of the work and add in comments on their Weekly Reflection, I file their folders back into their mailboxes on Mondays for the students to get at the end of each Monday, along with the spelling and writing homework for that week, which is also filed in their mailbox. One of my classroom jobs is Mailperson, so they file fliers, graded work, and folders for me as needed. 

Here are a couple of examples of what the Parent Folder looks like after I've graded the work.  Now it is ready to be entered into my grade book and filed back into their mailbox for students to get at the end of the day. 

These folders are sent home, graded with any comments or missing assignments on Mondays. The Weekly Reflection is signed by Wednesday and returned with the folder. Then the process starts all again! It takes a few weeks to train the parents and students, but it really does seem to be a worthwhile way of managing the massive amounts of work that come onto my desk. Plus, it's nice to kick back and grade while watching boobtube, or sitting on the back patio while my boys play in the yard.

If you'd like a copy of the Weekly Reflection to use in your classroom, click on any of the pictures or on the link to my store to download yours!

Happy Teaching!

Classifying 3-D Shapes Using Interactive Math Notebooks and a FREEBIE!

As a teacher, I always love teaching geometry. It's a chance for students to shine in a way that they might not arithmetically. Some of my brightest stars in geometry are kids who struggle with computation and fact-fluency. My spacial learners soar during this unit!

I can't wait to share how well our math lesson went today classifying 3-dimensional shapes. I don't know about you, but I don't have a wealth of resources at my disposal for this particular standard. However, my spacial learners (and all learners, for that matter) deserve the opportunity to construct these shapes in order to tangibly classify them.

In order for my fifth graders to find meaning in computing the volume of a 3-D shape, they should be able to point to and touch the length, width, and height of a particular object. However I don't have 34 3-D shapes at the ready for students to manipulate. So, what do we do? We create them. Alas, the FEAR of cutting-and-pasting stops me. (GASP - Every teacher's nightmare! Why do they become so enthralled with cutting that they COMPLETELY lose focus on the task? That is, until now.)

I've created an easy, effective way to construct and label a 3-dimensional shape based on its faces, edges, and vertices. This 3-D shape can be glued into their math notebook to refer back to for homework or re-teaching purposes.  Take a peek at my store or click on any of the pictures to download this FREEBIE.

Here's an example of what the finished product looks like in our math journals. It took less than ten minutes to build these tangible notes for 3-D shapes. 

We took notes on each of the parts of the shapes. This sample is created from scratch. But I've created a FREE template which makes is even easier for you! 

After cutting along the dotted line and glueing the top section down, we took notes behind our shape which included definitions of key vocabulary concepts concerning 3-D shapes. This is all leading up to the BIG concept of volume in shapes.

Here's an example of my pre-made template. I would use this for MY example in my math journal. However, I would have students use the latter example during which they label the face, edge, and vertex. 

This is the student-friendly version. I've shaded one face of the shape, which replaces my example where we crosshatched (old-school, I know). 

I really hope that you will find this useful in your teaching. 


Happy President's Day!

 Happy President's Day! Enjoy 20% off of my entire store today only! Click on the link to my store or the photo to get there.

Happy shopping!!

All About Butterflies! Monarch Life Cycle Close Read and Printables for Grades 1 - 3

Spring is in the air! Enjoy this adorable and informational butterfly life cycle unit which includes a mini book, close read, graphic organizers, and report final copy. Click on the link to my store or any of the pictures to download.

I included a couple of different graphic organizers to use while reading the text independently or aloud to students.

 This book is great for incorporating science into reading! Students will be excited to learn more about the monarch and its migration through this mini book.

 The last page has key vocabulary terms and is a fabulous tool for budding readers to use.

I also created a one-page article meant for Close Reading, which is a critical part of the Common Core State Standards. 

Here's a matching vocabulary activity that goes along with the close read or mini book using Tier 2 and 3 terms!

Who doesn't love a cut-and-paste sequencing activity?!

There is a lot that can be done with this map. Students can star where they live and color Mexico after reading about where the monarchs migrate. They could also research more about where monarchs begin their journey into Mexico and how far they really fly. 

Happy Teaching! XOXO

Test Preparation - Reading Strategies Posters!

Test preparation time is upon us! I have been using this Step-by-Step guide to successfully attacking a difficult reading passage, including tips on numbering paragraphs, previewing questions prior to reading, and proving the answer within the text. I started daily test prep with my class at the beginning of January, and by now they are experts at following all six steps. Click on the link to my store or either of the pictures below to find out how to download yours!

Holding students accountable for their answers includes being able to show them HOW to take a test. We can't expect them to know it all, but we can set them up for success using guidelines and tips on how to test. I'm excited to hear about how you use these in your classroom! 

Happy Testing!

How do you prepare your students for standardized testing?

What do you do in order to prepare your students for standardized tests? I am placing the finishing touches on a bundle of test-taking strategies that are easy-to-use for you and your students. Super excited to share! Soon.... real soon.

Thank you parents, for sending your students into school so tired tomorrow...

The Super Bowl hasn't even started, and I'm already thinking about it being over.

Not for the reasons that one might think... Contrary to what many of my friends think, I actually enjoy watching the game. This game, at least. Of course, the Super Bowl isn't about The Game. It's about the commercials.

Why not take them into your classroom tomorrow?

"The Day After" is commonly referred to as the day after major holidays (in the kids' eyes), like Halloween or Valentine's Day. You know, those days when the students lumber half-asleep or worse, hopped-up on sugar. You think to yourself, Great. Here we go. Get through the day... The Monday following the Super Bowl counts as one of "those days", too. A time when kids stumble in late and bleary-eyed. They stayed up too late watching the Half-Time Show, or were over  at a neighbor's house or friend's house with their parents at a Super Bowl party. I began to dread the Monday-After as much as February 15th, or November 1st.

A couple of years ago, it dawned on me to try bringing The Game into the classroom. At least, the parts students cared about. So, we began polling classmates on their favorite teams. Which is, er, fun. But I needed more for the Monday-After.  And so did my students.

Enter the commercials.

Thankfully, my district is one that hasn't banned YouTube. Which means I can stream the best (and worst) commercials the Monday-After into the classroom. I got chills all over again watching the sappy commercials, and laughed harder than I had the night before at some of the most silly ones.

Since persuasion is a writing genre with particular emphasis at my grade level, I decided to make my students work for their favorite commercials. Rather, they worked using their favorite commercials.

I spend no more than the time prepping than it takes to watch these commercials to choose which ones we'll target the next day in class. I've picked a few graphic organizers on persuasive techniques and include a PowerPoint or SmartBoard lesson on the powers of persuasion in advertising.

And the students do the rest. They critique their favorite ads for such appeals as ethos, pathos, logos. We discuss glittering generalities used in advertising, and the power behind an emotional ad. They reason, argue, and come to consensus (most of the time) on what particular strategy was most likely used behind the scenes. And then we write about it. Advertisements, letters, persuasive essays. They all become so much more meaningful to my class because each on of the kids is genuinely engaged in the content. Did I mention that my students are elementary school students?

Whether you're a Pre-K teacher, or high school music teacher, I implore you to let real-life work in your favor tomorrow. Take some time to discuss the students' favorite commercials. Even the youngest students will notice things like who bonked their head when they ran into the pretty girl in the chip commercial, for example. And upper grades can write about and debate the logic behind these ads. Make each moment count, from the singing of the National Anthem to the trophy ceremony. Ask your students to think about the "Why" behind the Big Game. And be prepared to be shocked with what they discover.

Sometimes it can be easy to let go of the teachable moment when life gets too busy in our schools. Try not to let tomorrow get away from you!

I look forward to sharing my students' work with you later on in the week. Stay tuned!


Just in time for President's Day! Mini Reading & Writing UNIT with blackline masters!

Do you ever feel like there is just too much out there for President's Day? I get frustrated when I feel like I am pulling from several different resources to plan my own unit. That's why I created this mini unit for reading and just in time for President's Day! Click on the link to my store or any of the pictures below to found out how to get yours!

 Mini books are great for CLOSE reading, which is a Common Core Standard. Nonfiction text written at students' instructional level can be difficult to locate.

 This mini book has 7 pages and blackline masters, and also includes graphic organizers to aid in student brainstorming.

 TRUE/FALSE activity which can be used to assess student's understanding after reading the mini book, "What Does the President Do?"

 I also pulled together vocabulary terms which could be sorted in ABC order.
 Here is preview of a mini book I created which compares our current President with the country's first President! Of course, graphic organizers are included.

 I always get a kick out of what students come up with if they were President of the United States.
Check out my store to see the whole unit. Over 25 pages!! 

Happy Teaching! XO