Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Simple Approach to Close Reading

Hi friends! Today I wanted to talk about a simple way to start practicing close reading with your kids. I usually start by using the symbol card in my Close Reading Toolkits, but that seemed to be overwhelming for some of my kids this year. I decided to simplify the method by coming up with three different "things" to look for and highlight/annotate. This worked out really well, so I thought I would share!

I displayed this printable on the whiteboard and told the kids to grab three highlighter colors. This was super easy because we keep art boxes that contain TBE highlighters on the table so we just used this. Each kid made a color key at the top of their text to show what color meant what. 

We looked for characters, which included new characters, characteristics, character interactions, etc. Anything to do with characters, we highlighted with our character color. 
Next, we choose a different color for setting. Again, anytime the setting was mentioned, the setting changed, a description of the setting, we highlighted.
Finally, we grabbed another color for 'feels'. This means anytime you have a reaction to the text, we highlighted that part with the third color. It could be a question you have about what is happening, a connection you've thought of, a part that shocked, saddened,angered,etc you. Anything you felt got highlighted with the third color.

After that, it was time to read! For this lesson, I used a passage from ReadWorks. We took a paragraph at a time and worked in groups of four. After a few minutes, we read the paragraph together and shared what we had highlighted. 

Simple and Effective!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Sticky Stroll: An Engaging Activity for Citing Evidence

I'm always trying to get my kids up and out of their seats! When kids move around the room, they are instantly more engaged in the lesson. When I saw Miss 5th's "Wisdom Walk" with her students, I immediately knew I had to recreate it! And thus, "Sticky Stroll" was invented. I posted a picture on Instagram and a lot of you wanted to know more about it, so I thought I'd write a blog post about it. :)

This activity can be used for a bunch of different content. In Miss 5th's version, they kids were using it for math problems and I used it to practice citing evidence by quoting directly. It made this sometimes difficult and time consuming skill much more fun!

First, figure out what your content is going to be. Since mine was citing evidence, I created 8 different questions about the novel we are reading. I typed each question on a piece of paper and then attached the paper to a piece of oversized scrapbook paper. I displayed each poster around the room. 
After each poster was displayed around the room, we partnered up. Each partner group stood at a poster. I turned on some music (I used the song 'Walkin' on Sunshine) and when the music played everyone walked around the room in a big circle. We added a little dance to spice things up while we strolled around the room! When the music stopped, each group had to find a poster (kind of like musical chairs except everyone will always have a question to answer). Each group worked together to create a constructed response to the question. They had to cite direct text based evidence for each question!

I had a lot of questions about the numbered sticky notes. Once each group finished, they stuck their answer to the poster. In order to prevent another group from coming along and copying down their answer, each group took another sticky note, wrote their number (each group had a number) and stuck it on top of their answer.

When we finished, the kids went back around to collect their sticky notes from each poster. They stuck their answers on a piece of paper. 
Then they typed their answers in a Google Doc and shared them with me. They had the best time with this and worked so hard! I'm definitely going to use this activity to practice more skills in the future! 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Digital ReadWorks- Your new BFF

Hey y'all! If you follow me on Instagram (lifeinfifthgrade), then you know how much I absolutely LOVE Digital ReadWorks. I've posted about it several times and I always get a lot of questions about it so I thought I'd just write a blog post. :)

Okay, so let's start off with the basic question: What is it?

ReadWorks is a FREE site that has a ton of text passages, both informational and fictional. Here's what I LOVE about this site:

-Passages are leveled (by grade level and/or Lexile Level)
-You can search by text type OR by skills! I LOVE using the skills feature to easily find a passage for whatever comprehension skill we are working on. 
-Each passage has a set of questions included
-Some texts have paired texts that include a set of questions that you can use to compare the two texts.
-You can "bookmark" your favorite passages or passages you want to come back to.

You can visit ReadWorks here. The site is FREE and you can print and copy to your heart's content....

If you have the resources available for each student to work on the digital version, then you MUST visit Digital ReadWorks. 
Let's talk about this amazing site!
Digital ReadWorks is a different site...same company, but a different site. You can visit this site here.
**If you have an account on the original ReadWorks site, you still have to create another account on the digital version. It can be to exact same info though!

I'm going to include screenshots of the basic features and my favorite parts of the site.
When you log into the site you'll see this screen. 
The arrows are pointing to what I would call a dashboard.
1) If you want to see all the articles they offer, then click "Find Article". That's the page the screenshot above it taken from. You can sort through and filter out what you want and don't want on the left.
2) If you save passages, they will be in the "my list" part of the site. This is like the "My Binder" part of the original site.
3) Assignments! This is the part of the site that you'll be visiting the most! More on that below. 
4) Class Admin- This is where you go to see all of your classes and what students are enrolled in which classes. 

So here's what the passages look like when you assign one:
The kids can highlight the text and make annotations when they click on the speech bubble. Here's a look at a text that has been close read. 

Now, let's jump into the 'assignments' link and see what's so great about this site. 
I created a fake account so I could share screenshots in case you are wondering about the student names :)

This part of the site is where you can see what you have assigned to what class. You can also see how many of the students have submitted their assignment and how many have not. If you click on 'class results' you can see individual scores, as well as the overall class.

Once the students have submitted the assignment you can see which ones need grading. If you click "grade these" under the written assignments, it will take you to each students' work. For this particular passage there were only short answer. 
This is my favorite part! It makes grading short answer responses SO MUCH EASIER! You can see each students' answer and you can simply click "correct", "incorrect" or give partial credit. As you can see, Chuck and Serena answered the question with TBE, but Blair did not. 

Once all work has been graded, you can see the overview to see which students missed what and their final grade. 

How great is this FREE site??? I just love how easy it is to use and how much valuable practice it provides the kids! 

Do you use Digital ReadWorks? What's your favorite feature? Is there anything I didn't mention that I should know about?? Please share!

***This is not a sponsored post! I just really love this site and wanted to share with y'all!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Favorite Books to Take Your Mind off School

Hi friends! I'm currently into my second week of the new school year and it's going great! I have such a sweet group of kids this year and we are busy learning how our class works and digging into new skills. Today I thought I'd do a little different post for y'all because I've been getting requests to start blogging about my favorite books more. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I'm a HUGE reader! I have my own insta account just for sharing what books I'm currently reading>>> @labookclub. 

As much as I LOVE teaching and discussing all things teaching related, if I didn't have a hobby that didn't involve teaching, I think I'd go crazy! I don't want to get burnt out and having another outlet is perfect. Reading is definitely my outlet!

Today I'm going to share some of my favorite summer reads that I loved this past season. Do you have any that you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments so we can get more great recommendations!

My current favorite book of 2016 is Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn Dingman. I live in Alabama and my favorite kind of story is a good southern story (not an overly southern book that tries to hard to make everything about fried food and "bless her heart"). This one was the perfect southern read! 
It's about a woman whose mother dies the year before the story takes place. She goes to the town that her mother grew up in to scatter her ashes, but she ends up learning much more about her mom than she expected to. It was the perfect blend of mystery and fiction. I could not put it down! 

I discovered Alessandra Torre through GoodReads and fell in love with her contemporary romance books. I've read Hollywood Dirt, Love Chloe, and this one: Moonshot. I loved the first two so much, but this one is my favorite! It's a romance set in the baseball world and it was simply addicting! I read it in a day! 

I had All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda on my TBR list since back in March because it sounded so good. This one was about a girl who returns home after being gone for 10 years. She left after her best friend disappeared and now another girl has gone missing. This story was told backwards, so the book starts with Day 15 and ends with Day 1. It was confusing to begin with because nothing makes sense, but then you start to realize things and it gets really good! So if you can stick with this one, you're in for a good thriller!

Sarah Pekkanen was another author I discovered through GoodReads. I've only read two of her books, but I've enjoyed both of them. I read her newest release, The Perfect Neighbors in June and loved it. I love finding a new author than has written several books that you pretty much know you're gonna love! 

I was in a reading slump after I finished Cancel the Wedding. GoodReads recommended The Hating Game by Sally Thorne and I LOVED it! This one is definitely in my top five favorites from 2016. This one is about two people who work side by side and hate each other...until they realize they don't. I don't think there's ever been a book that I've smiled at or laughed out loud while reading it. Soooo good!

I discovered booktube back in the spring (search for it on Youtube. It's a bunch of Youtubers who post videos about books. So addicting and you will find SO MANY BOOKS to read!) Anyways, I watched many videos where people were talking about Sarah J. Maas and her high fantasy series. I've NEVER read this genre (besides Harry Potter, of course!) so I always just looked the other way when they mentioned this book. For some reason, I decided to try it out and I was shocked at how much I loved this book and it's sequel. It's a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and involved faeries. I know, that sounds odd but seriously, it's so good! The sequel is even better and I cannot wait for the conclusion to this trilogy that comes out next year. 

So that's some of my favorite reads from summer 2016. What have you been reading loving? Follow me on GoodReads to see what I'm reading next! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The First Week of Fifth Grade

Hi friends! Today I'm talking about what I'm doing the first week of fifth grade! I go back to work next Thursday and the kids come back the following Wednesday (so we all know, school really starts back Wednesday!)
I LOVE starting back in the middle of the week. If you start back on a Monday, there's too much time to fill because it's too early to start a "real" week of learning. Even in fifth grade, the first week is all about procedures! When I transferred from first grade to fifth grade, I thought the kids wouldn't need to go over procedures...they're fifth grade. They should know what to do by now. I was dead wrong on that! Yes, they aren't six year olds anymore and they've been in school for 6 years by this point, but they haven't been in your class for 6 years. They need to be taught how YOUR classroom works! 
So for the first three days, we do "get to know you" activities and work on our classroom procedures. My biggest tip that I've discovered over the past three years of teaching fifth grade is to not OVER PLAN. This is a major difference in fifth grade and first grade. I always ran out of things to do on the first few days of first grade. When I needed to individually test students on letter recognition and sounds, I needed something for my other students to do. I always needed more! In fifth grade, I've found it's better to NOT over plan, especially if you are departmentalized. I only have each group of kids for an hour and 15 minutes, so if I over plan, they have to finish that work the next day and that can easily lead to getting off track. 

 Here's my first 3 day plans!
Syllabus: You can read about my last year's syllabus here. I'm changing a few things this year, so if you want to see an updated copy, let me know I'll blog about it! :)
I'm introducing myself with my 50 facts presentation
Let me know if you want to see my classroom rules and I'll post them.
You can find my student interest survey here, but this year I'm doing it through Google Drive using a Form. If I can figure out how to share this form, I will.

Model Beginning Class Procedures: Again, if you want to read about what I'm doing, let me know and I'll share. It involves my Guided Read Aloud! :)
Begin the Pineapple Project. This is my get to know you activity. I've done my Faces of Fifth Grade activity in the past (read more about it here), but my love of pineapples has replaced it this year!
We are selecting independent reading books on day two. I require all students to be reading a "chapter book" at all times and we won't visit the school library until the first full week, so a trip to the classroom library is a must! 
We are a 1:1 chrome book classroom, so we'll be going over technology procedures and getting logged into our accounts.

I have my kids write a letter to me each week about their current independent reading book. This idea is from The Book Whisperer, which if you haven't read, ORDER IT NOW! Life changing!) I like to spice up silent reading and writing time and Rain Reading is one way! Just search for 'rain sounds' on Youtube and turn off the lights to create a cozy setting. :)

Hope this helps! Again, if there's anything I didn't cover or if you have a question, let me know and I'll do my best to answer! :) 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

I've Started a YouTube Channel!

Hi friends! I wanted to pop in and tell y'all about my new YouTube channel! I plan on posting videos about my resource, fun little activities to use in the classroom, and all things teaching! Be sure and like my videos and subscribe! I've only uploaded three so far, but I'm filming my book bins tonight so look out for that video coming soon! :)




Tuesday, July 19, 2016

All About the VIP

Today on the blog, it’s all about the VIP Area! This absolutely fabulous idea originated from the amazing Rachel  Lamb. When I saw her Instagram post about this behavior management system two years ago, I immediately knew that this idea needed to be in my classroom. You can read more about her amazing idea here. Here’s how I do VIP in my classroom and my tips and thoughts on the process J

When I first started VIP, it was in the middle of the year. I stayed after school one day and cleared out a corner of my classroom. I put up caution tape to generate excitement among my kids. It completely worked! The next day they came in and immediately began talking about what would go in the new area. I didn’t say anything and wouldn’t give them any hints. I left up the police tape for the next couple of days. I remember dragging my mom to my classroom on a Wednesday night and setting up the VIP Area. When they came into class the next morning, they were SOOOO excited! It's one of my favorite teaching memories. :)

The best way to make this a special, coveted privilege in your classroom is to make a special area that only VIPs are allowed in! In my classroom, when VIP's are chosen, they immediately move to the VIP table and everyone claps! Below are pictures from my first VIP area.

This is what makes becoming a VIP so special! VIP members get access to ALL the perks in our classroom! They get to decide if they want to work at the VIP table for the day or grab a clipboard and work around the room. They get first choice of seating when we read around the room. If a non VIP member is sitting in a trampoline chair, the VIP member gets to request the chair (in a polite way, of course!) VIP members also get to write in pens!

Maybe it's just me, but that box of 96 crayons?? #swoon
So of course, the VIP members get access to all the best supplies! They also get a candy bag when they earn VIP for the first time!

The main point of VIP is to honor those who are standing out and doing what they are suppose to. 
When I go over VIP at the beginning of the year, I tell the kids that not everyone is guaranteed a "turn". VIP is something that is earned, not passed around.

Create a special display in your classroom and post your students pictures when they earn VIP. This year, I'm doing a VIP Wall of Fame where I'll display pictures of my kids as they earn access into this special "club"! 

When do you pick new VIPs?
 I don't have a set time I pick new VIPs. I pick them when I see someone who is going above and beyond the average student. 

How do I announce new VIPs?
This is one of my favorite aspects of this system. Since my kids all have their own Chrome books and school email, I email the people who are chosen to be VIPs. I'll announce to the class that I've sent out VIP emails and everyone checks. It is SO FUN to see the kids who have earned it read their email. I'm so proud of them, I sometimes have to try very hard not to cry! They are so proud of themselves (and rightfully so!). When he or she reads their VIP email, it contains instructs to come get an All Access VIP Pass from me and then move their stuff to the VIP Area. Everyone claps and praise the new VIP(s)!

How do you earn VIP?
I created a little chart to use at the beginning of the year to go over this system with my kids

How long do VIP members stay in VIP?
It varies! Sometimes a week, sometimes two, sometimes half a week. It just depends on if other students have earned VIP and I need to change students out.

Can you get kicked out of VIP?

How many students are VIP at a time?
In my classroom I have 4 because that's how many chairs I have at the VIP area! :)

I think that's everything! If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I'll answer it! :)

In other news, I created a YouTube Channel today! Check out my first video and let me know if you have any video requests! :)