Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bad Kitty Runs for President

Hilariously Educational!

Nick Bruel takes us on a hilariously entertaining (yet educational) journey with Bad Kitty as she learns about the election process in Bad Kitty for President. This children's graphic novel if filled with fantastic (an also hilarious) illustrations as the narrator talks Bad Kitty through the election she is running in against Big Kitty, since Old Kitty has already served his 8 years and can't run again. Big Kitty hits the campaign trail: kissing babies, throwing fits, getting donations and more. But does Bad Kitty (or Big Kitty) have what it takes to become president? Find out who wins, while learning an awful lot about our own election process, I promise you will laugh (and probably learn something too)! And seriously teachers, what better way to teach your kiddos about the election if it is an election year or if teaching voting is in your Social Studies curriculum (like it was for me in 2nd grade this past year!)

Reading Level: DRA 40
                      Lexile 690L
                      Guided Reading R
*I think the reading level is so high because of all the content vocabulary, my second graders loved this book and could handle reading it with some help on the content words.*

Teachers... here are some resources to help you to use this book in your classroom...

Web Resources:

  • Activities: This link provides some fun activities you can do with your class after reading.
  • Trailer: Show your class this hilarious book trailer video before reading!
  • Series Website: Find out about the author and the other Bad Kitty books here!

Vocabulary: All these words (with really fantastically funny definitions from Edna) are in the back of the book. Be sure to directly teach these words as without vocabulary instruction this book will be difficult for many 2nd and 3rd graders.
President, office, primary, election, nominee, party, delegates, convention, caucus, 527 group, debate, moderator, polling station, ballot, write-in candidate, register, absentee ballot, democracy

Before Reading: Create a KWL with your class with the title: Voting and Elections. Have your kiddos generate responses for what they know and want to learn about elections.

During Reading: (This could work as an after reading activity too)
Have your kiddos create a vocabulary journal for an election.
Students can write the word, write their own definition then draw a picture to help remind them what the word means.
When I teach with a book with so much vocabulary, I often break the class into 4-6 groups and give each group a word. Each member will write the word, their own definition and draw a picture. When the groups are done, they will "jigsaw" (mix the groups up so one member of each word group is now in the mixed group i.e. you have a group for president, office, primary and election, there are 4 kiddos in each group. When they jigsaw EACH group will have one member from president, office, primary and election)
The kiddos teach their new group about THEIR word. If there is time, the students can choose one or more of the words they learned from a group member and add the word to their vocab journal.

After Reading: Finish the L from your KWL, having students generate responses to what they learned about elections.
Discussion/Journal: Do you agree with who became the Cat's president? Why or why not?

Cross Curricular: Social Studies
You are already teaching a Social Studies concept just by reading this book to your class, but why not take it a step further?

  • Have a class election: Read some other great election books such a Duck for President or Grace for President. Have your kiddos run for president of the class. What kind of power will the president have? How will the class hold the election? You can have lots of fun with this!
  • Instead of voting for a person, vote for what the class can do as an extra activity. The trick is, the class has to figure out how they can get the ideas down to only 2 to vote for. How will they promote their favorite idea? How will they tally the votes?
  • Find out if your local town hall will give your students a tour through the voting process: standing in line to vote, filling out the voting card, submitting it into the machine, etc. Maybe they will even let your kiddos vote in a mock election!

Read Run photo ScreenShot2013-07-29at31808PM_zps68eb8a00.png

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

WBT Teach, Okay!

I am so excited to tell you about my favorite part of Whole Brain Teaching...
"Teach, Okay!"
The idea of "Teach, Okay!" is to get your students to either share their thoughts and predictions with a partner OR (even better!) reteach their partner what you just taught!

Get your own copy of this poster and other from a Teacher on a Mission's TPT page *Freebie*
So, how does it work?
We all know our kiddos don't have the best attention spans in the world and even the ones with fantabulous attention spans have trouble staying focused for more than a couple minutes.
So, what do you, the teacher, & your kiddos do?
1. Teach a quick or important point (no more than a minute)
2. *Clap clap* (or any variation of clapping) "Teach"
3. Kiddos: *clap clap* "Okay!"
4. Kiddos: Turn to their partner and reteach whatever they just heard you teach.
    You: Walk around, listen, check in, check for understanding, judge how long this "teaching" should go on.
5. You (when you find appropriate, could be as short as 30 seconds or as long as 2 minutes): "Class" or "Hands and Eyes"
6. Kiddos: "Yes" or "Hands and Eyes"
7. Teach for another short time & Repeat process

In my class, my kiddos have assigned seats in our learning circle AND assigned partners. That way, the kiddos know EXACTLY who to turn to in order to "teach." I also then have control over what kiddos are partnered together. That way I can be pretty certain they will stay on task. Having assigned seats and partners also made the process get going right away with almost zero transition time between the time I said "teach" and my kiddos start reteaching their partner.

Check out how these teachers use "Teach, Okay!"

Skip to 1:20 and you'll see a great example of "Teach, Okay" and teacher monitoring

Another way to use "Teach, Okay"
In my class I also use "Teach, Okay" for my kiddos to answer questions, especially comprehension questions after a read aloud.
When my kiddos would answer any question in my room (especially during the 2nd half of the year), I would ask them to use T.A.P. (Turn it Around, Answer it, Prove it). 
T.A.P. has gestures as described below. 
We would do our T.A.P. gestures as a class first before using "Teach, Okay"
"Turn it Around" *one hand flat out, other hand with pointer finger down, make a circle over other hand*
"Answer It" *one hand flat out, other hand pretending to write on hand that is flat out*
"Prove It" *one hand flat out, other hand in a fist, "stamp" down on hand that is flat out*
I would then ask the question and say "teach" my kiddos would say "okay" and then turn and teach their neighbor the answer to the question. I would listen in to make sure they were using T.A.P.

Next steps...
In order to make sure my kiddos were all being teachers, and not just listeners, we used "Switch" which I will share with you the next time I blog about WBT!

And then?...
Maybe you noticed in the video above the kiddos "mirrored" their teacher... I'll tell you all about that too!

Teach Run photo ScreenShot2013-07-29at32149PM_zps10463e60.png

Monday, July 29, 2013

I'm on Teachers Pay Teachers

I have finally created a TPT sellers page and just uploaded my first product, a Whole Brain Teaching Freebie.


 I will talk about Brain Toys in an upcoming WBT post, but if you are already a Whole Brainer, go get your free copy by clicking the picture below!


Teach Run photo ScreenShot2013-07-29at32149PM_zps10463e60.png

WBT Hands & Eyes

"Hands & Eyes"

More whole brain teaching fun.

So, how is "hands and eyes" different from the "class? yes!" model?...

"Hands and eyes" is a way to get your students' attention, just like "class? yes!" however, by using "hands and eyes" your students know you need to make a BIG POINT or share a BIG IDEA.

"Hands and eyes" is a verbal reminder that easily reminds students to show with their body that they are ready for the BIG POINT or BIG IDEA.

So, you have a BIG POINT to teach, your kiddos are paying attention (or at least most of them) but you need them to realllllly focus.

You say: "Hands and Eyes!!"
The kiddos say: "Hands and Eyes!!"
The kiddos actions: They put their eyes on you and fold their hands in their lap
You: Tell the BIG POINT, BIG IDEA, etc.

In my class this year, I had a lot of fidgeters! WBT helped A LOT because of all the gestures involved with their learning. But sometimes, (probably a few times a day) there is something you are teaching that you need your kiddos to sit still and listen to, even if this is only for 30 seconds (and hopefully no longer than a minute or 2). This is when I used "Hands and eyes!" My fidgety kiddos would put their hands in their lap and focus during my BIG POINT.

The sign above is a freebie from Lyndsey over at "A year of many firsts." Get your copy, along with other WBT freebies here.

Easy enough, right?

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Liebster Award!

Wow, I am so excited to announce that Brianne from Hooo-Ray for Teaching nominated me for the Liebster Award!!!
A big thank you to her for checking out and enjoying my blog!!! Even though my blog has been around since 2010, I haven't really tried to get it out there into the teacher blogging world until very recently so this means a lot, and thank you again to Brianne.

In order to accept the award I need to do the following:
1. Link back to the blog who nominated me.
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers.
3. Answer the questions posted by my nominator.
4. Create 11 questions for my nominees.
5. Share 11 random facts about myself.
6. Contact my nominees and let them know I nominated them.

Brianne's Questions:
1. What is your favorite subject to teach?
Reading! I love to read and love being able to teach my kiddos how to become readers or to become better readers :)
2. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Australia! Or I'd go back to Ireland <3
3. What is the most unique gift a student has given to you?
One of my little girls gave me a homemade snowglobe she made at a craft program at a local church

4. What is your theme for this upcoming school year?
Since I'm changing schools, I am going to keep my polka dots and bubble gum theme, next year it will change because I know I won't want the same theme in the same room/school 2 years in a row!
5. What is the one thing in your classroom you can not live without?
My computer, for sure!
6. What is your favorite food?
White pizza with spinach and mushroom
7. What is your favorite thing to do on summer vacation?
Run, then relax on the beach!
8. If there was one chore that you would never have to do again, what would it be and why?
Clean the floor because having a fiancee who works at a golf course and a puppy, cleaning the floor requires sweeping, dry swiffering and wet swiffering and still not having a perfectly clean floor!
9. If you could travel to one period of time, what would it be and why?
I'd be a teenager in the 1950's because I have been obsessed with Grease since 7th grade. I love the music, clothes, etc of that era and would love to live it!
10. What is your favorite kind of music?
I really do like just about anything (except country) but my favorite bands are Maroon 5 and Matchbox Twenty.
11. What is your favorite holiday besides summer?
Thanksgiving! I love that it's about family and good food and not presents and all the other stuff!

11 Facts About Me
1. I am getting married on October 12th!
2. I am going into my second full year of teaching (both second grade) I also long term subbed K for a few months.
3. I have a 5 month old puppy named Bogey (yes, as in 1 stroke over par in golf)

4. I live 1 mile from the beach and have a golf course in my backyard.
5. I am starting my masters degree in Reading/Language this fall.
6. I ran XC and track in college (took some time off and am just getting back into it this year)
7. I am starting at a new school this year and have very mixed emotions about it.
8. I am a recent whole brainer! (Check out Whole Brain Teaching)
9. I have a super artsy teacher who has helped with a lot of the creative stuff in my classroom.
10. I have wanted to be a teacher since 1st grade. I loved my first grade teacher, Miss Connell. She was an inspiration to me even after leaving her class.
11. I've known my fiancee since I was 11. We grew up in the same small town!

5 Blogs I Am Nominating
1. Gretchen at Sweet Sweet Second Grade
2. Amanda at Pretty Little Pencils
3. The Tongass Teacher at Teaching in the Tongass
4. Jennifer at Love Teaching Kids

Questions for my Nominees
1. How long have you been teaching & what grades?
2. What is your favorite subject/topic to teach & why?
3. What is your least favorite subject/topic to teach & why?
4. Why did you become a teacher?
5. Why did you create a teaching blog?
6. What is the best part about summer vacation?
7. If you were to enter a different profession, what would it be?
8. What is your ideal grade to teach & why?
9. What is your favorite teacher supply?
10. What are you most proud of in your teaching career?
11. What is your outside of school hobby?

Ooof, that took longer than I expected! Remember to "follow" my blog after you finish :)

Happy Blogging (& Running) =)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Flat Stanley

Flat? But how?

I can't believe I haven't posted about Jeff Brown's first in the Flat Stanley series, Flat Stanley. This was one of the first real chapter books I read with my higher readers at the beginning of the year in guided reading. They got hooked, and even when they were more than able to read tougher books, they were determined to read as many in the series as they could before the year was over.

In Jeff Brown's first of the MANY to follow Flat Stanley books, Stanley goes to sleep a normal, 3-dimensional boy, only to wake up with a bulletin board on top of him, leaving him completely flat. The doctor had no idea what was wrong, and other than being flat, Stanley was perfectly healthy. Stanley finds he can do many things as a flat boy that he couldn't when he was normal size. Find out about Stanley's mail adventure, police work and even being used as a kite. Will Stanley ever go back to normal? Find out in Flat Stanley, and I'll bet you get hooked and want to read more and more of the Flat Stanley series!

Reading Level: DRA 24
                       Lexile 640L
                       Guided Reading M

Teachers... here are some resources for this chapter book...

Web Resources

  • Fun for Students: Check out these fun online games and activities your students can use to get even more into the Flat Stanley series!
  • Flat Stanley Community: Use this resource to find out about great Flat Stanley apps (have an iPad in your classroom?). This website also tells you how to use Flat Stanley to teach about Earth Day, Symmetry and more (Click resources & teaching materials)
  • Printables & more!: Find vocabulary, word searches, discussion questions, and more. (Not every link here works, but many do!)
  • FREEBIE from me: Comprehension questions using T.A.P. (turn it around, answer it, prove it)

Vocabulary: altered, bulletin, disguise, dread, grating, jealous, jostle, ordinary, portable, recent, wedge


Before Reading: Discussion or journal: In the picture on the cover, Stanley is coming out from under a door. What other things do you think you could do if you were flat?

During Reading: Discussion or journal: How is Stanley's brother Arthur feeling? Why is he feeling that way? Pretend your Arthur. How would you feel and why?

Have a class "debate." One group tells why it would be great to be flat while the other group tells why it is better to be normal size.

After Reading: Compare and contrast Stanley and Arthur. Create character maps for each of them.

Arthur came up with a great idea for how to make Stanley not flat anymore, can you think of other ideas for how you might have helped Stanley? Illustrate your idea(s).

Across the Curriculum: Social Studies

  • Classroom Adventures: Use these ideas to have your own traveling Flat Stanley in your classroom. Maybe you could send Flat Stanley to relatives of students in your class who live in other parts of the country or world. Use a map to keep track of where Stanley visits. Use your traveling Stanley as a way to introduce geography and other Social Studies content!

Happy Reading (& Running!) =)

Friday, July 26, 2013

New Classroom, New School

Before Pictures...

I am super sad to be leaving the school I student taught in and taught my first full year in, but for various reasons it was the best choice for me. My first 2 days of summer were spent cleaning out my beloved room, followed by trying to find somewhere to store it all... Here's a picture of about one third of my teaching "stuff" in the spare room...

This was after one day of emptying out my old room. 2 more car loads after this made the spare room pretty useless.

I was able to take most of my teaching goodies out of the spare room a few days later but sadly had to more or less "dump" them in the hallway outside of my new room because the floors needed to be waxed, rooms cleaned, etc.

Here are some "before" pictures of my new room.

I am beyond excited to have a SMART board this year!!!

6 working student computers (compared to 2 last year!)

Ugly windows... I plan on creating a hanging "focus wall" of sorts like I had in my old classroom.
I had a thin rope that went from one end of the room to the other in front of my similarly ugly windows.
I hung up anchor charts that were either relevant all year or relevant to what we were working on at the time.

This will be my little teacher area (desk, guided reading, etc)
I've been considering going "deskless" this year, but I'm not sure I can pull it off.
Check out the mini fridge! All the teachers get one and a microwave in their room, awesome!

Closet area for storage. I think I'll have to make a pretty curtain to hang here.

So that's my room. The humidity is making the wax not want to dry in the rooms and hallways, which means I haven't been in my room since I took these pictures a few weeks ago. Hopefully the floors will be ready for traffic next week because I am getting ready and excited to clean, decorate and organize!

Happy Teaching (& Running) =)

WBT Rules

Whole Brain Teaching has 5 easy rules...

. . . and these rules will cover every rule you've ever had in your classroom!

But, maybe you're one of many teachers who see the importance in having the kiddos come up with rules that they think are important in a classroom. I have the solution (because I'm one of those teachers too)! Do your normal first day of school "what kinds of rules should we have in our classroom?" activity, but take it one step further. Create a rule sort. Share WBT rules with your kiddos and work as a class to sort the student generated rules into each WBT rule category. I promise you (or the kiddos) will be able to match every rule the class comes up with to a WBT rule!

I know, I know, I have you at the edge of your seats and you're screaming "Tell Me the Rules!"... however, I need to let you in on one VERY important detail of WBT first. Part of using your whole brain during WBT really hones in on movement. I know you can think of at least one student who would LOVE an excuse to move around, and I'm sure you would LOVE that movement to be USEFUL and not simply a distraction... and so, I present "gestures."

Everything, and I really mean everything, you teach while using WBT has some type of a gesture. Many concepts have gestures the wonderful whole brainer creators have made up for teachers (less thinking for you, the teacher, yay!), other gestures, you can make up on your own, or your kiddos might even make them up!

Okay onto the rules...

Whole Brain Teaching Rules:
Each rules has a gesture (a super easy gesture) that goes along with the rule. The rules are very easy to remember, and having a gesture makes it even easier for your kiddos to remember.

Rule #1 Follow Directions Quickly

Rules #2 Raise Your Hand for Permission to Speak

Rule #3 Raise Your Hand for Permission to Leave Your Seat

Rule #4 Make Smart Choices

Rule #5 Keep Your Dear Teacher Happy!

Check out this video to see the gestures in action in a classroom:

Most of the gestures are pretty easy to see if you watch closely, but here is a breakdown of the gesture that goes with each rule by the founder of WBT, Chris Biffle...

The only differences you may notice in the video of the class above and Chris Biffle is for Rule #1 the class put both hands together and wiggled them (that's how I had my class do that rule too) and Rule #4 Chris Biffle uses one hand to point to his head, in my class, we pointed with both our pointer fingers on either side of our head. Do whatever's comfortable and works with your kiddos.


I found fantastic freebie posters for the WBT rules (& other WBT goodies) from Lyndsey over at "A year of many firsts"! Check out the fellow whole brainer's post here and get your own copy!

WBT Rules in my class... In my last post, I mentioned that I didn't start my WBT journey until the 100th day of school. So, when I introduced these rules, we talked about how our former classroom rules fit into our new WBT rules. We were able to categorize each rule we had created at the beginning of the year into these 5 rules categories. Like I said before, you could easily have your kiddos come up with what rules they think are important in the classroom and categorize them in categories for each of the 5 WBT rules.

When I introduce the rules this year, since I won't have previously established rules to categorize, I plan on discussing in detail & modeling exactly what each of these rules means and looks like. I had a great class this past year, so basically sorting our already established rules was enough for them, but starting on the first day will need discussion and modeling for sure!

Repeat, repeat, repeat; practice, practice, practice
Once my kiddos learned all the rules, we started every day by going over the rules. I start the day with my kiddos in a morning meeting.  In my morning meeting, I use some responsive classroom such as greeting and team building activities plus calendar math. To incorporate the WBT rules, all we did was have students lead us in the rules every day at the start of our morning meeting. During most morning meetings we would go over the rules twice. The first student would lead the rules in a "normal" voice and the second student got to lead the rules in a "silly" voice. So really, adding the WBT rules did not add any extra time to our regular routine.

We would also go over the rules to start our afternoon. This past year due to our enrichment and specials schedule, I had my guided reading/centers block after lunch and recess. As a way to get my kiddos ready to learn for the remainder of the day, we would have a quick meeting where we would have 1-2 students lead us in the rules, then discuss any new centers and the afternoon's schedule. We already had a quick post recess meeting as part of our routine, so adding a rule reminder was only about 30 extra seconds in our day.

Looking forward...
One thing I would like to add this year is when I notice a student is not following one of our rules, I will say that rule number and *hopefully* I can train my kiddos to say the rule and do the gesture. This is a suggestion Chris Biffle gives, but I never got into the routine of using it as reinforcement and practice of the rule. At the beginning of the year, I may even stop and call a class meeting to go over again what these rules mean and look like if I'm noticing multiple students breaking the rules.

But, sometimes the rules don't apply!
Sometimes, as any teacher knows, there are times it's okay to talk without raising your hand and times if the kiddos had to raise their hand to leave their seat it would make your life crazy (i.e. guided reading). Chris Biffle discusses using something like a sticky note to put on a rule if students did not have to follow it, like if students are allowed to talk during a group activity.

In my room this past year, I didn't have to use the sticky note, because my kiddos knew already when they could talk (group work, certain center activities, etc.) However, this year, since we will start our WBT rules at the same time we are learning all our other classroom routines, I might use the sticky note at the beginning of the year so my kiddos have a visual to remember when they can "break" rules 2 and 3. In addition, I plan on creating an anchor chart when we are learning the rules that lists times when we might break rules 2 and 3 (fire drill, centers, group work, partner work, etc.)

Can I Add Other Rules?
I did not (&will not) add any additional rules in my classroom... it's just so nice having it short, sweet & simple...
I did have a few anchor charts in my classroom for certain routines. Were the kiddos still expected to follow these 5 rules? Yes! But, some routines in the class (as you know) need to be really laid out for the kiddos, very explicit, easy & of course modeled until you couldn't model anymore.

One example of this was cleaning up centers. My kiddos struggled with cleaning up centers efficiently, quietly, quickly and effectively all year, pre and post WBT. So, we did have a routine anchor chart for what the kiddos needed to do to clean up centers. I guess you could say there were some additional "rules" when we cleaned up for centers, but they all in one way or another fit into our WBT rules anyway. See? these rules are so versatile and awesome!

Here's the anchor chart I used for center clean up. Can you categorize them into our WBT rules? My kiddos could!
Hard to see the bottom, it says
4. Get a book and read at your center, wait for Miss James to check in
5. Put work in your mailbox, keep reading

Sort them out...
With no voices: Rule #2 Raise your hand for permission to speak
Clean up center, put bin away in order, put work in a pile: Rule #5 Keep your dear teacher happy
Get a book and read at your center, wait for Miss James to check in, put work in mailbox and keep reading: Rule #3 Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat

Of course you could argue that some of these procedures may fit under different rules, and I would agree with you, but how easy would it be to take a piece of chart paper and make a simple chart with each WBT rule at the top and then have the kiddos sort the procedures as a class... easy peasy!

Wrap it Up!
Okay, I think that will do it for WBT rules for today. I hope you learned a little something & are thinking about becoming a whole brainer (or maybe you already are a whole brainer, and LOVE reading about other WBT classrooms! I know I do!)

Happy Whole Braining (& Running) =)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

WBT "Class, Yes"

Grabbing their attention!

Are you read for some whole brain teaching?
When I started WBT in my room, on the 100th day of school (good excuse, "so since it's the 100th day of 2nd grade, it's time to start a new type of learning..."). The first thing I taught my kids was "class, yes"

Basically all the "class, yes" model is, when you say "class," your kiddos will say "yes." However you say "class" is how your kiddos will say "yes."
Here are some of my favorite variations...
"Class class" "Yes Yes"
"ohhh claaaass" "oh yeeees"
"Classity class" "Yessity yes"
*low voice*
*high voice*
*alien voice*
*any other silly voice!*

When the kiddos respond with "yes" you've got their attention and you can give directions, start a lesson, etc.
It's quick, it's easy, it's fun!

Here's a video of the WBT founder, Chris Biffle explaining how to introduce WBT in your class and the "class, yes." If you just want to see the "class, yes" part, skip to 2:50.

Easy right?

But what if you get tired of the "class, yes?" OR you run out of fun ways to say "class" OR worse, your kiddos lose interest in the "class, yes?"... you can always introduce other fun ways to get the kiddos attention. I didn't use WBT all year this past school year, so I only introduced one other attention grabber, one I'm sure you've heard before...

"Hands on top" "That means stop" And the kiddos would put their hands on their head and stop what they were doing.

I found this from Cool Teach- Adventures in Teaching. They are attention grabbers that can easily be used in place of "class, yes" when you need something fresh, new and exciting. 

Check out this fabulous list of Class? Yes! alternatives (& the rest of Nicole's WBT blog) here!

In My Room
On the first day of introducing WBT I introduced "Class, Yes" and the kiddos thought it was hilarious because I got silly with it when we practiced, by saying "class" in all different ways with all different voices. They caught on so quickly and for the most part the kiddos would stop what they were doing and look at me. It took less time than any other attention grabbers I had tried (chimes, rain stick, etc) mostly because I only had to do it once, and even in the rare occasion where I had to say "class" more than once, it still took up less time than the rain stick, etc.

When I introduced "class yes" I also used this great sign, 
brought to you by Lyndsey at "A year of many firsts" You can get your own freebie poster as well as other WBT signs by visiting her blog here.

Let's Review
The best easiest introduction to WBT is introducing the "Class, Yes" which serves as a great, easy and fun way to get your kiddos attention.

Teacher: "Class"
Students: "Yes"

The students say "yes" however the teacher says "class"

Students: Stop what they're doing and listen to the direction, instructions, etc.

Easy peasy & on your way to Whole Brain Teaching!

Happy Whole Braining (& Running) =)

Whole Brain Teaching

I am a Whole Brainer!

I want to share some of the Whole Brain Teaching techniques I used in my classroom this past year. I plan on using a lot more of WBT this year as well as to start from day 1, which unfortunately I was not able to do this past year. Once again I'm wishing I had kept this blog running during my first year's teaching journey, but it is what it is and I will try to remember as much as I can about my WBT implementation in 2nd grade.

So first, how did I hear about WBT?
Well the AMAZING 3rd grade teacher across the hall from me uses WBT, but I didn't know a lot about it and, honestly, when was I going to find time to research it? With it being my first year teaching I constantly felt like I was chasing my tail, no time to catch my breath, never mind research a new way of teaching!

See? Sooo much snow! Fellow New Englanders, did you get this much snow too?
Well then came all the snow, and far too many snow days (we didn't end up getting out of school until the mid 20's of June!) A few of these snow days were in a row, so I decided, what better to do with my "stuck inside" time than to research this awesome teaching style that I was constantly overhearing from across the hall... not only was I hearing the kiddos excitement level but I was also hearing the bragging on WBT from the teacher across the hall using it.

So I got my research on, hot cocoa in hand and simply googled "Whole Brain Teaching" and to my surprise found that WBT has an AMAZING website. I learned so much from watching the founder's (Chris Biffle) webcasts, instructional videos, etc. After I watched all of his videos on the basics of WBT, I had a BLAST watching videos of teachers using WBT in their rooms. I was BLOWN AWAY at the level of engagement (even kindergarteners able to ignore the video camera in their room and stay completely engaged in the learning that was happening). You can go to youtube and type in whole brain teaching and find tons of examples of WBT classrooms, there are also some posted on WBT's site. I also learned so much from bloggers who are whole brainers. That's the amazing thing I've found about WBT. Whole Brainers are willing and excited to share! So many programs, ways to teach, resources, etc. cost money (sometimes even to just read about them) but WBT is completely free (even their professional development sessions are free, if only I lived closer to Cali or had the $ to fly there!) AND so many whole brainers offer their WBT resources and ideas for free on their blogs in Teachers Pay Teachers, etc. It's fantastic, because who doesn't love free?!

So anyway, back to my classroom... Luckily we were merely days away from 100th day when I was doing all this WBT research! Wooh! So I had the PERFECT excuse to start integrating WBT into my room. I told the kiddos, "well, now that we have been 2nd graders for 100 days, I know that we are all ready to try a new type of learning!" I made sure to tell them it was new for me to and might take some getting used to, etc. I also ensured them that the process would be FUN FUN FUN! They bought in and *bam* I had a WBT classroom (or at least the start of one)!

Okay, so it wasn't as easy as *bam*, and I still have some learning and growing to do as not just a whole brainer but as a teacher in general, but truly WBT did amazing, amazing things for my classroom.

Okay, so this is just my intro to: I *LOVE* Whole Brain Teaching... more to come! I promise!

To come (get excited!)...
What parts of WBT did I implement? & how?
In what ways did WBT help my students? help me?
Where did I get the AMAZING WBT signs/resources for my room? Links to these Freebies!
How did other teachers/adults in my room react to WBT?
WBT sub plans!?
What parts of WBT do I plan on implementing this coming school year?
WBT freebies from me!

Happy Whole Braining (& Running)

Amber Brown is Not a Crayon

Will Amber Brown survive without her best friend?

Amber Brown and Justin Daniels have been best friends since Amber can remember. They are the perfect pair. Justin helps Amber with fractions, while she helps him with spelling. Amber has better handwriting, and Justin is a much neater gluer. The friends have known Justin would be moving eventually, ever since his father moved for a new job. Secretly, Amber has been hoping Justin's family's house would never sell. But then, when it does, their friendship begins to change... What will happen in Paula Danziger's Amber Brown is Not a Crayon?

Reading Level: Guided Reading: N
                        Lexile: 720L

Teachers... here are some resources for you...

Web Resources

  • Extension Activities: these are great activities to complete with your class after reading Amber Brown is Not a Crayon. The last activity "Takeoff" goes great with Social Studies, yay for cross-curricular ideas!
  • Reading A-Z: If your school has a subscription to Reading A-Z, here is a link that will take you to a lesson and discussion questions for this story.
  • Literature Enrichment: These activity ideas create great extensions that you could do as a whole class, in reading groups or book clubs depending on how you choose to use this book in your class.
  • FREEBIE from me! Here is a comprehension sheet using T.A.P. (Turn it Around, Answer It, Prove it) It's a google doc and you can easily get rid of the T.A.P. icon if you don't want it  or message me and I can send you a copy without it.

Vocabulary: Here are some words you may want to pre teach, point out, etc. before or during reading.
active imagination, anchovies, applauds, charity, combination, contributed, debate, defend, gory, immature, imitate, obnoxious, promotion, sarcastic, torment (you can find more words through this link)

Before Reading: Discussion or journal: In this story, Amber Brown's best friend Justin is going to be moving away. Have you ever had a friend move away? How did you feel? How would you feel if your best friend moved away? On the cover art of one edition of this book, it says "fighting with your best friend is no fun" why do you think Amber and Justin might be fighting in this book, based on what you know about someone moving away?

During Reading: Discussion or journal: Amber and Justin stop talking to each other when Justin starts packing. Why does Amber Brown stop talking to Justin? Do you think she is making a good or bad decision by not talking to him? Why? What would you do the same or different?

After Reading: Amber Brown and Justin now live far away from each other. What are some ways Amber Brown and Justin could stay friends? Pretend you are Amber Brown and write a letter to Justin about how things have changed now that he's gone. Pretend you are Justin and write a letter to Amber Brown talking about your new school.

Cross Curricular: Social Studies See the link above for a great Social Studies connection... think, traveling in your classroom just like Amber Brown's class does!

Happy Reading (& Running!)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fairy Tales

Once Upon A Time...

My second to last ELA unit was by far my favorite! I was required to teach fairy tales, yay!

Focus Standards:

  • RL.2.2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures and determine their central message, lesson or moral.
  • RL.2.9 Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures.
Introducing Fairy Tales:

Class discussion... what is a fairy tale? What fairy tales have we read? What makes a story a fairy tale?

Books we read:

3 Versions of the 3 Little Pigs...


Click for the 3 Little Pigs journal we used. I can't remember where I downloaded this from (if you're the author let me know so I can give you credit!) I made 2 addition copies of the describe the pigs/wolf and story map pages and put them together so the kiddos could describe all 3 stories. I also created this page and put it after the "describe" pages for the kiddos to complete if they had time after each story. You could also use this in the Cinderella journal below if you choose.

3 Versions of Cinderella...

Click for the Cinderella Journal we used.

3 Versions of Goldilocks and the Three Bears...


Click for the Goldilocks and the Three Bears Journal we used.

After We Read each story...

After we read all these fairy tales, we read The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Fairy Tales and talked about fractured fairy tales.
I did a lesson on creating our own fractured fairy tales.

We used a simple brainstorming web to think about what story we would like to create a new version of and how we would change it.

Students then completed a story map identifying who the characters would be, the setting, problem and solution.

Students also created a graphic organizer identifying what would happen first, next, then and last.

Students finally created a rough draft of their story.

When they were done with their rough draft, they conferenced with me and I helped them to edit their stories.

Finally they copied over their story with our corrections onto a final draft. They also had the opportunity to illustrate a cover page for their story.

The kiddos conferenced 2-5 minutes with me after completing each step, but our "editing" conferences took closer to 15 minutes for some students. Some of my kiddos loved this and finished in about a week. Others worked very hard to finish taking nearly 2 weeks. They were so proud of their final pieces!

You can grab my fractured fairy tale mini unit at my TPT store!

Our fairy tales bulletin board (combination of our journals and fractured fairy tales) & door decoration...

Happy Fairy Tale Reading (& Running)

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