Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

With my belly full and feeling a little sleepy from turkey, I'm excited to share how my kiddos spent their Thanksgiving week (Monday & Tuesday) in my classroom. We had a lot of families traveling so I had a tiny class, but we still had a lot of fun!

#1 One of my amazing families made me a Thanksgiving pumpkin bread. So thoughtful!

#2 We ended our morning meeting with a fluency partner day. We read the acrostic poem Thanksgiving on Monday, so the kiddos read it in partners, giving compliments using P.E.A.R.

#3 We talked about what it meant to be thankful and what we were thankful for and then my kiddos took to their writer's notebook to write a few things they were thankful about. They then copied it over in their best handwriting to be hung up on the wall.

#4 I read Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving and we talked about the characters, setting, problem and solution. Then we decided what the most important events from the beginning, middle and end of the story were.

The kiddos put these beginning, middle, end events in their own words, then created a BME turkey hat. I got this fabulous freebie from Hollie Griffith on TPT. Get yours here.

My kiddos kept saying "look there's a turkey and it's dressed up like [insert kiddos name]. It was too cute and they were just so adorable we had to take a picture of all my turkeys!

#5  I found this fabulous Thanksgiving freebie, with all different "How To" prompts. The kiddos had the choice of doing a few different ones, and some of them did more than one, but the pumpkin pie prompts were my favorite!

#6 We spent the afternoon watching Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving while the kiddos could choose between different turkey math activities which I didn't take pictures of for whatever reason. It was a fantastic kick off to my Thanksgiving mini-vacation!

I hope you all were able to spend time with your family on this Thanksgiving and thought about those things for which you are thankful.

Before I sign off, here are a few things for which I'm thankful for this year...

I'm thankful for my little family of my hubby and puppy...

I'm thankful for my second graders who keep my life interesting every day!

I'm thankful for my parents & sister who I miss seeing every day but am happy to only live about a half hour away from.

I'm thankful for my friends who are always there for me.

And I'm happy for all the other little blessings in life that God brings into my life every day.

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Friday, November 22, 2013


Well this was certainly a long week... report cards and parent conferences! Those half days for conferences seem so long! I think I would rather have my kiddos all day... they don't do well with different routines of half days.

To end this long week, I'm linking up with Five for Friday... my crazy week in photos :)

Fluency P.E.A.R.
We have "fluency day" 3 days a week. We start each of these days with having my "mini teachers" teach each part of our P.E.A.R. fluency with gestures (thank you whole brain teaching!)
Here's our P.E.A.R. breakdown:
P - Phrasing: Stopping and pausing at just the right place (gesture: putting up stop sign hand when they say "stopping and pausing" then a thumbs up for "just the right place")
E - Emotion: Change your voice to show the right feeling (gesture: fingers on the corners of your mouth and making into a smile and sad face)
A - Accuracy: Reading with no mistakes (gesture: make a 0 with your hand)
R - Rate: Reading at just the right speed (gesture: running motion with arms)

Here's our weekly fluency schedule...
Day 1: After my mini teachers remind us of our P.E.A.R. parts, we pass out our weekly poem.
The kiddos look for words they aren't sure of and ask indicating line number and what letter the word starts with, I or another student helps out by reading the word.
The kiddos then listen to me read, while making a picture in their head and we discuss any connections or what they imagined while I read.
We then read together 1-3 times (depends a lot on the length of the poem)
This whole process only takes about 10 minutes.

Day 2: After my mini teachers remind us of our P.E.A.R. parts, we pass out our weekly poem (same poem as day 1).
Today is partner day, after reading together or hearing me read the poem again, my students read the poem to their "teach, okay" partner. Their partner compliments them on one part of P.E.A.R. then they switch.
We come back together and do some type of reading together such as every other line with me, every other line with 2 sides of the carpet, boys and girls alternate, etc.
Again, the whole process takes about 10 minutes.

Day 3: After my mini teachers remind us of our P.E.A.R. parts, we pass out our poem from the previous days.
On this day, the kiddos jump right into partner reading, but this time, they create gestures to go with the poem.
After about 5 minutes working on how to read the poem together with gestures a few partners get to share their reading with the whole class.
This also takes about 10 minutes, but can take longer depending on how many pairs share.

My kiddos LOVE fluency days and their fluency really is improving thanks to this 10 or so minute fluency focus 3 times a week!

November seems to be the month of birthdays, I have eaten more cupcakes in the past 2 weeks then I care to admit... and couldn't help to get a few shots of my cuties with blue mouths after one of our birthday celebrations!

In math, we've been working on graphing, and my grade level partners introduced me to "I mustache you a question!" The kiddos did a survey which they turned into a bar graph, all while getting to enjoy pretending to be an investigator with a silly mustache. We hung the bar graphs and their pictures in the hall way with mustache duct tape. The parents loved looking for their kiddos as they waited for their conference.

I was pretty excited to change my name officially a week ago, and when I arrived at school on Monday, I had a new name plate at my door too!

I decided it was necessary to treat myself last night after my last conference...

And then, I treated my hubby, my sister and her boyfriend to venison chili and a nice relaxing night tonight, yum!

Only 2 days of school left until our Thanksgiving break! I love Thanksgiving it is my favorite holiday. I will be sure to post some of the fun activities we do to show we are thankful next week :)

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Babe Ruth Baseball

When I discovered that I had a set of Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Babe Ruth Baseball by David A. Adler hiding in my classroom library, I was giddy with excitement! I LOVE Cam Jansen but didn't have the money to buy sets of Cam Jansen along with the Flat Stanley, Henry and Mudge, Toad and Frog and Horrible Harry sets I was creating in my nearly bare classroom library last year. This year, changing schools, and briefly going through the books left in the room, it completely went unnoticed that I had this set of Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Babe Ruth Baseball. I came across them during my not so fast crawling process of leveling my library in the midst of everything else that needs to be done during the week...

Okay, enough chatting, for those "great books" fans of the past (if you didn't know this is how my blog started) and fans of the present, here's a book review and classroom ideas, hooray...

Photographic Memory & Baseball

Introducing Cam Jasen, whose real name is Jennifer, but earned the nickname "Cam" because of her photographic memory (think - Camera!) She is a curious and smart and loves nothing more than solving crimes with her best friend Eric.
This mystery involves a hobby show, a very impressed crowd and a missing baseball signed by none other than Babe Ruth! When Cam and Eric meet Mr. Baker and see his baseball collection, Mr. Baker becomes quickly impressed with Cam's ability to memorize and tell all about a baseball player after one glance at a baseball card. In the excitement of a crowd asking Cam to memorize various cards, Mr. Baker's most prized possession, his signed Babe Ruth baseball, disappears. It is up to Cam and Eric to find out who stole Mr. Baker's baseball! Get caught up in David A. Adler's mystery series in Cam Janeen and the Mystery of the Babe Ruth Baseball.

Reading Level: Guided Reading: L (and so are all the other Cam Jansen mysteries which I find much more convenient than the series that jump around, it's hard to tell a kiddo well, you'll enjoy and be comfortable with this book in the series, but not this one)
                          DRA: 20
                          Lexile: 500L

Teachers... here are some resources for you.

Web Resources:
  • Teacher Resources: This link within David A. Adler's website is just for teachers! It includes ways to introduce mysteries, discussion questions and activities to go along with Cam Jansen books.
  • Monthly Planning: Why not make it a Cam Jansen year?! Here is a planner to help you pair up Cam Jansen stories month-by-month.
  • Teacher's Guide: Some overlap from the above links but lots of other activities & printables as well, and all free (unless you've surpassed your max number of free views on Teacher Vision)
  • Vocabulary: A free vocabulary printable companion for this story focusing on context clues.
Freebie from me! Comprehension questions chapter by chapter. This is the exact packet I am currently using for the guided reading group reading this book.

Vocabulary: Same as words in vocabulary link above.
Chapters 1 & 2: hobby, exhibits, autograph, photographic memory, upset, valuable
Chapters 3 & 4: amazing, apology, reached, explain
Chapters 5 & 6: avoid, lobby, confused, flier
Chapters 7 & 8: complaint, proud

Before Reading: Access background knowledge: Do you know anything about Babe Ruth? If not, what can we infer about Babe Ruth based on the title of the story? What is a mystery? Do mysteries have the same story parts as a narrative/What are the important parts of a mystery?
For the last question, use this guide to mystery elements from Teacher Resources link above.

During Reading: Have kiddos read one chapter at a time, prereading questions from the freebie packet then discussing afterwards. Make sure students know they can/how to go back and access the text to find answers. Depending on your students' level of experience with answering comprehension questions in written format and accessing text, you may want to model with a think aloud and answering questions together for the first chapter.

After Reading: If this is the first time your kiddos are reading a mystery story, be sure to find out what they thought about mysteries and if they would want to read a mystery again. It is important to know your students' interests so that you can build a classroom library that will encourage your students to read!

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Oh Halloween...

I'm linking up with 5 for Friday & Freebie Friday this week!

Well I survived Halloween and the sugar hangover afterwards!
I've become very sensitive to the fact that not everyone celebrates Halloween over the past year, mostly because the school I taught at last year had a lot of kiddos who didn't go trick or treating due to religious reasons, so I am in the habit of not doing much for Halloween and saying "fall" and "pumpkin" in place of many times I want to say Halloween. All my kiddos this year celebrate Halloween but it turns out a few of them weren't able to go out trick or treating for various reasons so I was glad I once again didn't make a big deal out of Halloween.

However, I learned 2 things this year about the Halloween time of year...
#1 It is possible to teach kiddos on (the morning of) Halloween
#2 Save all fun "fall," "pumpkin," "Halloween," activities for the day after Halloween when the kiddos are either CRAZY or too tired to really function as learners.

I also managed to have my kiddos earn a celebration just in time to have PJ day today since they can't dress up at my school on Halloween. They got so excited about it that, they stopped asking about dressing up for Halloween.

Okay, so here we go...

I have to start with PJ day! As any regular readers know, I use (and love!) whole brain teaching. I've gotten a lot better at using the happy and sad faces as a whole-class motivator for hard work and good behavior. My deal with the kiddos was 10 days with more smile faces and then we get a celebration (I'm going to have to up the anti to more than 10 soon!). So since they kept getting told they couldn't dress up for Halloween, I had suggested a PJ party, and it won, hooray! Very easy celebration (I didn't have to buy or do anything!)

Here are my cuties... especially loved the minion slippers!


FREEBIE ALERT.... Sometimes the best ideas are those you plan on a whim... I knew I was doing pumpkin centers all day today since I figured I'd have VERY tired or VERY hyper kids (it was the 2nd!). I realized when getting all my centers organized in folders and bins that I didn't have quite enough to fill the whole day. 

So, I searched my pumpkin and fall books and pulled out The Biggest Pumpkin Ever. 

I then whipped up a quick worksheet that asked what my kiddos would do to grow a giant pumpkin... they LOVED it, one of my kiddos even was beyond creative saying he would put radioactive goo on his pumpkin which would make it grow really big and turn neon green, too funny!
Get the writing worksheet & pumpkin coloring sheet by clicking below.....

Continuation of my #2... I was originally going to have my kiddos just color the big pumpkin sheet included in the above freebie, but again on a whim (I seem to be working off whims a little too much lately) I decided water color might be fun! I was mind blown to find out most of my kids had never used water color before. I kept having kiddos tell me the paint was "broken" and "dried up" and "not working" and that was even after I modeled  how to add water to the paint and make sure your brush was wet, etc.

Despite never using water colors before, and a much more tedious project than intended, they came out pretty cute...

I learned a lot about the QRI (Qualitative Reading Inventory) in my grad class this week. If you don't know about it, check it out! I think it will be a great way to assess where especially my lower students are lacking in reading in regards to phonemic awareness, phonological awareness, phonics, etc. I've started reading both the assessment book and one of the companion books and am both being reminded of a lot I learned during undergrad as well as discovering new ways to approach students with need of intervention in reading.


And a non-teaching plug for my AMAZING photographer for my wedding. If you live in the New England area and need a wedding photographer, family portraits, maternity portraits, etc. check out Melissa's site by clicking on the photo below...

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