Monday, July 6, 2015

Teaching Frindle {beginning of 5th grade}

Happy Monday! I hope y'all had a great 4th of July weekend (if it was 4th of July where you're from. If not, I hope you had a great regular weekend!). Today, I'm busy working on my more of my 1st grading period lessons/ideas. I'll be sharing some of those later this week, but be sure and read about my 1st grading period pacing guide details here

I always like to start the year by teaching our first novel study: Frindle. I love starting the year with this book for several reasons:

{1} It's relatively short and not as complex as some of our other novel studies, therefore making it an easy one to start off with.
{2} The first two chapters are devoted entirely to describing the protagonist and antagonist, which is great because we start the year off with characterization. Also, I LOVE teaching characterization. You can read about one of my favorite lessons here and one of my favorite TpT resources here
{3} It gets the kids excited about words...and if you read my first post in my Word Nerds Book Study, you know that's a big goal in my classroom this year.  

Having ready made resources helps so much when trying to prepare for the school year, so I'm spending a lot of time during the summer trying to get ready for those stressful school days by prepping ahead of time. I'm sure nothing will come up if I prepare right?! ;) ;) 

Funny story: I sat down at my computer early last week and started working on my Frindle unit. I was looking through some of my [unorganized] files when I discovered I had already started making a unit on this two summers ago. I had big plans of organizing during the summer even back then, but somehow the Frindle unit fell by the wayside! What's even better was the fact that I had already created 13 pages! #score

I didn't plan on the unit being 80+ pages, but I'm really happy with the end result! I went ahead and included the central questions for this one. I *promise* I will add the central questions to my Tuck Everlasting Novel Guide this week! You can find the central questions for The Westing Game here (a full unit will be coming later this year!)
Here's what you'll get in this novel guide. 


I LOVE to use comprehension quizzes at the beginning of each day after reading the day before. This provides a check for understanding throughout the novel study and makes the students accountable for what they are reading. Last year, I actually had some students ask if we could do comprehension quizzes like we did with Frindle when we started our second novel. They are sort of like a fun little review game. The questions are straightforward, level one of Bloom's Taxonomy, but that doesn't mean they aren't important, right? Answer keys are also provided in this unit. 
An end of novel assessment was a request in my Tuck Everlasting unit. I'll be creating and adding one to that novel guide this week. Answer key is also included.

Character Maps for the protagonist and antagonist are included, as well as posters for teaching these literary terms. 


You'll also get the printables you need (including vocabulary cards!) to make your own Frindle board
Central Questions ARE included in this unit. You actually get several different options on how to use these.

You can read more about how I use central questions here.

7 Discussion Questions are included. I love using discussion questions to practice providing evidence and getting in some writing!

There are 9 graphic organizers in the novel guide!


You can grab your copy here! :) 


Be sure and check out the products I've used up and which I loved {and hated!} on my life+style blog Southern Belle Inspired.





Sunday, July 5, 2015

Word Nerds Book Study: Intro and Chapter 1

Hi friends! I am so excited for today's post. Heather from The Elementary Journey and I are teaming up for a mini book study on Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary. I always try and read a few professional development books over the summer, and so far I haven't made it pass Word Nerds. There are SO many great ideas in this one that I really wanted to take my time and soak up all of the info it has to offer. 


As I was reading, I really thought about how I have been teaching vocabulary in my classroom and I realized something: I really wasn't teaching vocabulary like I should be.
Isn't that pen adorable?! It comes with two others that are even cuter! You can grab them here

When I read this part in the introduction, I thought "exactly!" I hate to admit it, but that's what I had been doing. I gave my kids the vocabulary words, we would have an activity to practice them, and then we would test Friday. And guess what, after Friday's test, we never talked about 90% of those words. Sure, I left them posted in the room after the test, but we never actually used them in context or practiced them. Did my kids retain those words? Nope.

I blamed this failure on time. There simply isn't enough time to spend on vocabulary and effectively teach it. Or that's what I thought until I read this book. I was wrong. You can (and should!) spend a good amount of time increasing your students' vocabulary! I was so focused on getting everything in by Friday in time to test on it, that I was missing the point of the content. I found myself teaching the best when I slowed down and provided students with enough time to practice with content. 

 The book follows two teachers- Leslie H. Montgomery and Margot Holmes Smith, a 3rd and 5th grade teacher. It shows ways the two teachers teach and practice effective vocabulary strategies in their classrooms.  The one thing I wish the book had done differently is put the Vocabulary Cycle Plan (found in Ch. 8, p. 124-125) in the beginning of the book. I found myself thinking a lot throughout the book "Okay, that's a great idea, but when am I going to fit that in?? There isn't time to fit in that much vocabulary instruction!" They include both a 5 day Vocabulary Cycle Plan and a 10 day Vocabulary Cycle Plan and after thinking and planning, I've found that a 10 day cycle will work better for me. At first I was worried that my kids wouldn't be exposed to enough words if I did 10 days (2 weeks) at a time, but when you read the book, you realize that while there are only 5 or 6 vocabulary words at a time in the cycle, you are also learning and practicing synonyms and antonyms for each word. I sometimes need to see the end result or what something will look like on a bigger scale before I work or understand the smaller parts, so having that in mind at the beginning of the book would have prevented me from wondering what the plan would actually look like on a day to day (or week to week) basis in my classroom. 

Chapter One is titled What's the Big Deal About Vocabulary Instruction?
This sentence from chapter 1 really stuck out to me. WE are responsible for exposing kids to new words in order to provide them with a chance at a bright future. This is important, people! 

Chapter 1 also discusses the level of words. My wonderful instruction coach first taught me about this, so I was glad to see it mentioned in this book. Levels of words was created by Isabel Beck, Margaret McKeown, and Kinda Kucan in a book called Bringing Words to Life. 

Another huge moment that stuck with me from chapter 1 was this sentence:
I think I've always known this, but still. Knowing and taking action are two different things and I blamed time again. Sure, I did a few activities like Quick Draws and Vocabulary Review, but I wasn't providing daily practice in order for kids to retain new words. 

So what was the big point I took away from the Introduction and Chapter 1 of Word Nerds? 
We need to provide students with engaging, hands on activities in order for them to learn and retain new words. And we need to make time for this. It's that important! :)

Are you reading Word Nerds? Or have you already read this amazing book? We would love for you to share your thoughts with us as we post ours! Comment below and tell us what you are thinking about providing vocabulary practice and effective instruction in your classroom! 


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July, friends! I'll be back tomorrow with my thoughts on Chapter 1 of Word Nerds. If you haven't read this book, I highly suggest you invest in it now! It's completely changed the way I think of teaching vocabulary! #love :) 


Friday, July 3, 2015

Classroom Decorating: Day 2

Day 2 of classroom decorating is in the books and my classroom officially looks like a tornado came through. I was so confident that this was going to be the easiest decorating this summer after day one because I had forgotten about all the junk that had to be unpacked from the built in table. This is what it looked like at the end of day 1:
Look at how bare the floor looked! Silly me didn't realize what it would look like when all that stuff came down!

It looks like this! Getting everything down took forever! I didn't realize how much I had stuffed up there. And all by myself! Getting it down wasn't near as easy as putting it up there! 
Exhibit A: my favorite lamp bit the dust :(
RIP pretty pink lamp :(

On a more positive note, I placed my bookshelves. I really think I need black book shelves, don't y'all?? 

Above the bookshelves will be my evidence board. You can see last year's here and grab a free copy of the evidence term posters here. :) The VIP Area is moving, so the door will need to be recovered as well. I'm planning on creating my Word Nerd vocabulary board on that blank space between the window and the corner. I'll be posting more about Word Nerds soon! 

I began to unpack supplies for the small group area and realized I need to go through some things and throw away junk/donate! I found a nurse's slip from two years ago!!! I'm determined to be more organized this year. Once I decided this, things went a little slower and I accumulated more trash bags. I'm making progress, even if you can't yet see it :)




I've had several people ask when I go back because I'm already working in the classroom. We got out in mid May and go back early/mid August. This is actually the latest I've wait to get back in my classroom since they were waxing the floors. One of my favorite parts of my job is working on decorating my classroom, so I'm always anxious to get started :)
Are you able to work in your classroom during the summer? Let me know in the comments below! :)

Be sure and check out my coffee table mini makeover over on my Life+Style blog Southern Belle Inspired :)


Thursday, July 2, 2015

#bethedifference with The Mailbox

If you're a teacher, then you are familiar with The Mailbox Magazine. I was SO excited when I graduated and gifted myself a subscription to The Mailbox Magazine. I felt so official! :) 
So, when they contacted me about partnering for their #bethedifference blogger program, I 100% said yes! 
I'm so excited about the opportunity to share their new Mailbox Gold plan and how I use it in my 5th grade Reading class. You can go ahead and check it out for yourself here
I'll be back soon to share with y'all how I use it to create an effective 'homework' plan!

And be sure to check back tomorrow for more about my 1st grading period planning. If you missed yesterday's post about it, check it out here.

Need some good summer beach reads? Check out my June Book Review on my life+style blog Southern Belle Inspired! :)



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

1st Grading Period Pacing Guide Details

Hi friends! I posted this pic a few weeks ago and had some requests to share more about my 1st grading period pacing guide. 
I'm not going to cover everything today, but I'll give you an overview of what I'm planning on teaching the first part of the year and if you have any questions or anything else you want to see, just comment below and I'll answer it or write a post about it :)

Here's some info you need to know before we get started. I am departmentalized, so I only teach Reading/Language Arts/ and Spelling. I have 3 different classes and each class lasted roughly 1 hour and 10 minutes. Time is by far my biggest struggle. 

My school uses Scott Foresman Reading Street, but we are encouraged to teach the standards, not just the book. We can (and should!) use other resources out there rather than simply teaching Unit 1 Week 3 Day 1 from Reading Street.  I taught 1st grade for 4 years and LOVED RS (that was before the Common Core version. I only used the 2008 or 2009 edition, so I can only speak for it). 5th grade Reading Street was a completely different story. I could not teach it the way I did in 1st grade because of time. In 1st, I had an entire 2 hours devoted to reading alone. 5th is different so I had to adapt. I used the series for the most part and just picked which parts I thought were most important to cover and then I also used novels to teach certain skills and strategies. I always felt like my most successful teaching came from when I moved away from following the book exactly. I knew I needed a plan to become a little more organized in my teaching and make it a little easier on myself. 

I'm still using many resources from Scott Foresman, but I'm not following their weekly plan, nor using their stories for the most part. Instead, I'm using articles from Time for Kids to bring in nonfiction and Scholastic's Storyworks from works of fiction. Occasionally I will use the text from RS. I used my classroom money two years to purchase Storyworks and let me tell you, it was worth it! I LOVE this magazine! The stories are great and come with tons of activities and resources to use with it. It's Common Core Aligned too! 

The first thing I did when I sat down to work on my pacing guide was to map out the school days throughout the year. I'm a visual person and seeing how many 4 day weeks we were going to have really helped! Any day that the students weren't going to be there, I highlighted in green. I also went ahead and marked any major assessment windows and testing in my classroom, which I will talk about in a separate blog post.  
Next, I went on an online search to get a base outline to help me. I found this pacing guide that helped a ton! I loved how they laid out the standards they were focusing on and included resources from Reading Street that met that standard. 

Then, I determined what standards I wanted to work on during the first grading period. 

I took those standards and analyzed them to determine what skills and strategies I needed to focus on. This part really helped me understand what the first few months were going to look like and it instantly made me feel more organized and better about my plan. 

So then I figured out the weeks in the first grading period and identified my main topics to focus on in Reading. I'm sticking to one major skill for two weeks. This may seem like a lot of time, but I started doing this mid year last year and it worked a lot better for me as opposed to one week. We were able to get more practice in with each skill. When you think about it, you're covering more than one standard with many lessons so it works, especially for the 1st nine weeks when you are establishing routines and the students don't automatically know how to do certain things yet. This part may differ in the next grading period if I see I need to adjust in order to cover everything. 

I used the same process for Language Arts.

As far as anchor texts go, I'm currently working on that . I know we'll start the year with Frindle because we are covering characterization first and the first two chapters of Frindle do a great job of providing enough detail for the protagonist and antagonist to really analyze and dig deep! 

I finished Word Nerds after starting this planning guide, so the way I do vocabulary this year will be different. I plan on doing a kind of book study on this amazing book starting in the next few days! It won't be a full fledged book study like a lot of the other great ones out there because I don't have enough time to organize that, but I do have lots of ideas and thoughts to share with y'all about teaching vocabulary after I read this. :) 

Hope this helps! If y'all have any questions, leave a comment and I'll answer or do a separate post about it! :)


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Classroom Makeover Day 1

Happy Tuesday, y'all! I went back to my classroom for the first time yesterday and worked a little bit. I didn't get a lot accomplished. I placed most of the furniture, but that was pretty much it. I'm getting rid of my teacher desk and another big table this year in an attempt to declutter! Anyways, here are the pics. I know it isn't much to look at, but it's fun to see the progress! Gotta start somewhere, right? 
Be sure and click "classroom tour" above to see my last two classrooms! :)

Here's the view when I walked in. Those desks weigh a ton! It took forever just to get them all down and placed.

It's so easy to find decor for my black and white theme! These two rugs are from Wal Mart and TJ Maxx. This will be the reading area. 

I'm thinking 4 groups of 6 desks...I'm liking the way it looks, but I may change to 6 groups of 4 if there's enough room. See all that stuff stacked on the table??? That's tomorrows project!

Future small group area. Fun fact: I've never used a kidney shaped table, y'all! 

Future VIP Area. Don't know what this is? Read all about it here!



This blue table needs to find a new home. Mission Declutter has officially begun!

The teacher desk will also leave the room. I usually sit at my small group table anyways and I'm trying to make more room for the kids to read and work around the room instead of sitting in their desks all class period. 

Hopefully boards will start going up later this week and I can share some "cute" pics with y'all! :) :)

Be sure and check out my June Favs over on my Life+Style Blog Southern Belle Inspired!