Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday

Joining Deanna Jump this week for Book Talk Tuesday.

The books I decided to include today are 3 of my absolute favorite mentor texts.  I use them every single year.  I read them to my class multiple times each year during writer's workshop and each time I read them, my students beg me to read them again.

Salt Hands by Jane Chelsea Aragon gives me goosebumps every time I read it.  Warning:  a few kids cry the first time I read it each year.  It's not a sad book, just so moving!  Unfortunately, I had to pay close to $40 to get my hands on a paperback copy of this book.  It's out of print and if you watch online sellers carefully you can usually get it for around $40 if you are willing to pay that much.  I read it so many times each year that it was totally worth the money.  It is the perfect example of a capturing a small moment.  I also use it during my writer's workshop time to model word choice, clear beginning/middle/end sequence in a small moment and creating mental images with words.

Fireflies  by Julie Brinckloe is the perfect choice for mini lessons on word choice. I also use this book as a model for creating mental images with your words and developing an author's voice.

I use Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee for mini lessons to model varying action words, capturing a small moment, building suspense and adding detail to writing.  I also use this book as a model for adding facial expressions to your illustrations.  

Even though I'm looping with my class, I know we'll revisit these three favorites next year.  
The possibilities are endless!

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Word Walls That Work

In my district, word walls have been a hot topic for a while.

Here are the issues we've been discussing...

Are you required to have word walls in your lower elementary classrooms?

What words go on the word wall?

Are they the same as your weekly spelling words?

Do you also put other words on the word wall?

Should words be added to the word wall each week?

Do you start the year with all of the words up?

Do you start the year with the words from the previous grade up?

How do you teach the students strategies for using the word wall?

How do you model interacting with the word wall?

So many things to think about...no wonder this is a topic of discussion.

There are many, many fabulous ways to use the word wall that are happening in my own building, in my district and in classrooms around the country.  I am by no means a "word wall expert".  But, here are my own answers about how I use the word wall in my classroom. My answers do not represent the decisions made by my district - because those decisions have not all been made by the big powers that rule the word wall.

Are you required to have word walls in your lower elementary classrooms?
I'm kind of required.  Plus, I do think it's a valuable tool (especially if it's used carefully).

What words go on the word wall?
Our weekly spelling words (which are Dolch words), but not the word family (vowel patterns) that we study are the ones that I put on my classroom word wall.  I don't include the word family patterns on my word wall, because I want the word wall to be a place for students to find high frequency words.  We make anchor charts with different word family patterns as we study them.  Those are kept in other places in the room so students can refer to them as we are learning each specific pattern.

Are they the same as your weekly spelling words?
Yes, the word wall words are our weekly spelling words.

Do you also put other words on the word wall?

Should words be added to the word wall each week?
In my classroom we add the spelling words each week.  That allows us to have practice using only a handful of new words on the wall each week before other words are added.

Do you start the year with all of the words up?
Nope. I have a system for introducing and adding the words.  The words are added in front of the students and we talk about the words for the week during our Monday morning meeting.

Do you start the year with the words from the previous grade up?
I recently talked to some teachers from another district who said they were required to put up the words from the previous grade to start the year. My word wall starts empty.

When I started this post, I realized that I don't have a current photo of my word wall.  And...I won't have a photo of my "new" word wall for a couple weeks because all of my teaching treasures are currently in the hallway outside my new room.

Excuse this picture from 2011...

My word wall has gone through a couple makeovers since the picture above and I'm ready for another makeover this year.  I purchased fabric and borders this summer.  
I'm thinking about using some combination of these on my new word wall. 
Thank you, schoolgirlstyle.com for the chevron borders!

I recently sorted all of my words, so I can figure out which words I need to make since I'm looping with my class to 2nd grade this year. Isn't my granite pretty?  I love it.  Shhhhh... I use Windex on it all the time.  I know.  I know.  Pretty soon it will probably develop giant craters.  Blah. Blah. Blah.

I've also been collecting pins of my favorite word walls on Pinterest. 
You can click on the image below to check out my favorites.

Each year, I assess the students to find out if they can read and spell the words from the previous grade at the beginning of the year.  If there are words from the previous year's list that a child can not spell, I work on those individually with that child.

How do you teach the students strategies for using the word wall?
Since the words on my word wall are "spelling words", I want my students to have as much practice as possible interacting with the words throughout the week.  A couple years ago, I posted about the super spelling slippers my students are invited to wear during our spelling tests.  You can read that super old post here. Yes, I give spelling tests.  I don’t mind if some folks don’t like my “spelling tests”.  I also don’t care if other folks (even on my team) choose to give spelling tests or not to give spelling tests.  I feel lucky to work in place where we have some freedom to make those decisions based on what we feel is best for our students.

And since I’m famous for saying exactly how I feel...

I give spelling tests for 3 reasons.
1. It teaches accountability and responsibility.
2. I use the weekly assessments to plan my instruction for the following week.   
3. My students count on and look forward to our weekly spelling routine. 

Part of our weekly spelling routine is to do the Super Spelling Power Stations from my Super Spelling Forms pack.  Super Spelling Forms includes lots of different spelling forms and directions and checklists for my Super Spelling Power Stations.  The best things about the Super Spelling Power Stations are that it is a routine (not weekly stations that you have to keep creating/changing).  The words change each week in our spelling program, but the Super Spelling Stations routine stays the same.  Lots of the Super Spelling Stations involve movement, since many students learn best when they are active.  Some of the stations also require students to interact with the word wall.

Each day, my students interact with the word wall during literacy workstations and during Super Spelling Stations.  During our morning message, students solve mystery words by using the word wall each day.  They also stomp, cheer or clap each word wall word in our morning message. 

How do you model interacting with the word wall?
During read alouds or close reading activities that I do for reader's workshop, I refer to any new or "tricky" words that are on our word wall. I also model using the word wall to help me decode new multisyllabic words that have smaller word wall words in them.  For example, if I came upon the word "makeshift", I would point out that "make" is on our word wall.

The most helpful time for me to model strategies for using the word wall is during my writer's workshop mini lessons.  Modeling strategies for using the word wall during writer's workshop helps my students remember that I expect them to use the word wall to help them spell the words correctly or to CHECK THEIR WORK.  That's in big letters because it seems like I'm always yellin' that out. Ha!

As I plan to redesign my word wall for this year, I'd love to see pictures of your word walls! Anyone want to share a pic with me?  You can send them to me via email or I'd be happy to visit your blog or Instagram page if you have pics of your word wall there.  Just leave me a message and I'll hop on over to check it out.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday Meet Up #6 (sort of)

I am pretty sure I'm the only one not headed to Vegas.  I keep telling myself that it's ok because I actually hate super hot weather (that is true)...but it would be super fun to meet so many of the bloggers from around the country.  Bummer... but I'm blogging from the beach so it's really ok (mostly).

I'm linking up with The Teaching Tribune today!  Being away from my regular crazy schedule means that I finally have time to catch up on some blogging.  The problem is that I'm about 6 weeks late to the Monday Meet Up party...seriously.  How funny is that?

I think this might be Monday Meet Up weeks 1, 2 and 3 (but the rest of the world seems to be on week 6).  I probably won't ever get to week 6, but I'm ok with that too.

You can head over to check out the link here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July Currently

It's July...almost.  Seriously, how did that happen?

I'm linking up with Farley, from Oh Boy 4th Grade, again this month to share my July currently.  Please stop by to visit Farley if you haven't already.  Things were a little soggy for her for the past couple weeks. Oy...

I'm gonna let everything above explain itself today.  I have about 3 blog posts half way done and I've been working on 3 tpt products that I really need to finish.  My goal for July is to wrap those up in between walks, bike rides and naps by the lake.  

Linkin' up and headin' off to swim/dive practice with my kids.   Happy summer!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Zoohoo!  Doesn't that sound like a good name for an app or a game or a book?  It's really just a combination of "zoo" and "boohoo"...because it's taken me a whole month to get to this post about the activities we did to prepare for the zoo trip in my classroom.  Better late than never...

We finished our animal research projects the week prior to all this zoo themed business.  I like the students to wrap those up just in case we need to consult an "expert" during our zoo themed activities.  You can read my previous post about our animal research books here. My students design their own covers, but we use my Animal Research Book format.

We started out the week by reading Animal Action by Karen Pandell and Art Wolfe.  This book is a great way to review verbs.  It also served as a mentor text for our writer's workshop mini lessons.

At the writing workstation, my students listened to a book called How to Ride a Giraffe.  I recorded the story on one of our iPads and put the link on our classroom Edmodo account.  That makes it easy for my students to find the link to the story and the directions for their writing work all in one place (without disturbing me while I work with small groups for reading instruction).  Their assigned task for this particular week was to write their own how to story after listening to the story.

We also read Giraffe's Can't Dance and the children created their own giraffe.  

I do this art project every year and I absolutely love how their giraffes turn out.  I call it a "get a frame for this one" project!

During writer's workshop, we worked on a sentence expansion activity.  Toward the end of the year, my students began to suffer from "I'm done syndrome"  during writer's workshop.  I decided it might help if we worked on editing and revising another writer's work, rather than our own for a bit.

My school subscribes to Reading A to Z.  I used one of the level AA books as a springboard for this project.  The book we used is called The Zoo.  I explained to the children that the author wrote the simple repetitive text in this book with the specific purpose of helping beginning readers build confidence, practice the sight word "the" and use the picture clues to help them identify the unknown word on each page.  The text on each page follows the pattern "The lion.", "The tiger.", "The elephant." and so on.

Using a book with a simple repetitive text pattern allowed us to practice different skills throughout the week.

Day 1 - adding a verb on each page (using the Animal Action book as a model for choosing interesting verbs)
*example:  The lion stalks

Day 2 - adding an adjective on each page to describe the animal
*example:  The sneaky lion stalks

Day 3 -  expanding each sentence to add details to answer the questions who, where and when
*example:  At sunrise, the sneaky lion stalks his prey at the edge of the woods.

Day 4 - add an introduction to the story

Day 5 - add a conclusion to the story

Day 6 - change the title to make your reader want to read the story

When they were done with each of these steps, they were ready to write a final draft of their story so it could be published in time to be on display with their animal research books for our Ice Cream Social/Showcase.

And...if you follow me on Instagram you already saw how excited I was for school to be out for the summer!  No sad goodbyes for me this year, because I'm looping to 2nd grade with my class!

School's out for summer!

pictured in this photo: my teaching BFF's

FYI - I'm sitting on the couch to write this post!  I.NEVER.SIT.ON.THE.COUCH from when school starts all the way to June.  PEOPLE - I'm sitting on the couch with my feet up!!!  Oh happy day!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Currently June!

Currently...many of you are experiencing summer break (and I am not).  
Oy...  2 more Mondays...I CAN DO THIS!

Here's what is going on currently...the short version so I can hurry off to school. :)

Head over to visit Farley to see what is going on with everyone else.  Thank you, Farley for hosting this party each month!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

10 Things I Want To Do This Summer

I'm linkin' up with Deanna Jump for her Ten Things I Want to do This Summer linky party!  

1. I am so excited to spend time with my family!  My kids live in what we call a "2 teacher house".  That means that mom carries at least 3 pairs of scissors and 6 different colored Sharpies and is not afraid to ask the whole dance lobby or the whole soccer sideline to help cut out laminating.  And...dad has parent teacher conferences everywhere we go since he teaches an elective class and has 254 students.  It also means that in the summer we have 24/7 family time...and we wouldn't trade it for the world!

2.  I'm looking forward to enjoying baseball games, swim meets and dive meets!  This picture is from a Rockies game our family attended, but we'll be watching our son finish off his first travel baseball season this summer.  We'll also be cheerin' him on at his swim meets and praying while our daughter participates in dive meets. :)

3.  One of my favorite things about the summer is our morning routine.  

Wake up later than 5 a.m..
Sit on the porch for coffee (husband)/dt. dew (me).

This is what my kids do while we sit on the porch. 

4.  I can't wait to look at my flowers.  Do you ever feel like being on a hamster wheel does not allow you to simply enjoy the beautiful things in this world?  I've been planting lots of flowers in our yard this spring.  I just want to sit and enjoy the beauty of those flowers.  Flowers make me happy.

5.  Visit with friends and family!  It feels so good to spend have more time to visit with friends and family in the summer.  These are my parents and my kids. We feel so lucky to have so many great memories with them and are lookin' forward to making more together this summer!  The bottom picture is of me and my sweet girl.  

6.  Use my new Silhouette!  Well, I actually bought it in January and only had time to try it out once (pathetic).  Looking forward to experimenting with it this summer!  

7.  Prepare for 2nd grade. I'm looping with my class to 2nd grade.  I'm so excited!

8.  Move my classroom.  Since I'm looping, I have to move into a classroom in the 2nd grade hallway.

9.  Redecorate my classroom.  Since I'm moving, I might as well redecorate a little.  I've already done some shopping at Schoolgirl Style.  I'm not changing my colors.  I'm just changing things up a bit so my students will feel like it is a new space (which it will be) with a new look.  My husband is also making me a table for my new room.   This summer I'll be on a mission to find the perfect rug!

10.  Go camping!  We go on a big camping trip each summer.  No, not in a tent.  I prefer to enjoy beach days, bike rides and campfires...then sleep in a camper. Last summer, we stayed for 22 days.  Our trip won't be quite as long this summer, but we are just as excited! 

I still have 10 1/2 days left of school, so I should really get back to work on my end of the year assessments.  Head over to Mrs. Jump's Class to check out the linky party.