Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday - Chapter Book Series (freebies)

In preparation for my looping experience and in celebration of my fancy new bins...I'm working on a giant book sorting project this summer.  It's still a work in progress, but I thought it was a good time to link up with Deanna Jump to share some of my favorite chapter book series.

 At the beginning of the summer, I reread The Book Whisperer

If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.  Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book, which refers to student reading surveys.

"Their needs as readers, as people, call to me from the pages of those surveys, and I whisper back with books." (Donalyn Miller)

Since I am looping with my students, one of my goals is to really get to know my readers.  In first grade, we poured our hearts into becoming readers and learning how to love books together.  During our 2nd grade year together, I want each of my students to develop their reader identity.  As their teacher, I want to make sure I "whisper" to them by listening carefully to their preferences, fostering their interests, acknowledging that I know and respect their individual reader identity and making sure that I have a variety of books available for them to read independently.  Along with that, I want to make sure my books are organized in a way that motivates my students since they are now more sophisticated readers.  That is how I justify the outrageous amount of money I've spent on new books and bins this summer. Ha!

Another take away I had from reading The Book Whisperer was the importance of giving readers choice.  In her book, Donalyn Miller said that she used to read whole class novels with her upper elementary students.  She said she discovered that lack of control over reading choice was a problem until she stopped doing that and switched to a workshop structure instead. I do feel like I give my readers choice in my own classroom, but after reading this book 3 or 4 times I have a list of ideas of ways I can improve my own instruction.

I made a new Reading Interest Survey to use with my students this year.  You can click on the image below to download a copy.

I also decided to start with reorganizing my books (and buying lots of new chapter books) to start 2nd grade. I found these amazing chapter book bins from Really Good Stuff.  They have 3 divided sections, which are perfect for separating books in a series. They come in a variety of colors.

*We use Fountas & Pinnell levels.  Many of the series on this list are new and have not yet been leveled on many of the leveling sites, so I assigned levels that are close enough for me.  I'm simply sharing the list in this format in case it's helpful for any other teachers out there.  You can click on the image to download a copy of the list.

Today, I am going to my classroom for the first time to move my furniture around.  No flip flops.  Hair in a messy bun.  Pray for me. Surely this will count as my weight lifting for the day.

Head over to visit Mrs. Jump's Class to read about other great books.

Monday, July 28, 2014

It's Monday and I (FINALLY) Made it!

I finally conquered the laundry mountain from our 15 day camping trip!  Yahoo! Go me!  Before you congratulate me for surviving 15 days of roughing it...you should know that we camp in a camper. We are blessed to live in a state with fabulous state parks and hundreds of quaint little towns on our beautiful lakes.  So, we "camp" every summer.

Pictures from our trip...

My favorite boys...

The best blessings in my life...

Now that we're back home, I finally have some time to make a few of the things I've been wanting to make.  I'm linking up with Tara, from 4th Grade Frolics, for Monday Made It.

I found these fancy letters at Hobby Lobby to make a sign for my reading corner.  All of my furniture is piled in a mountain in the middle of my new room at the moment...so I can't show you a picture of what it looks like in place yet.  I'm too scared to go there and face the mountain, so I've been working on some things at home.

I found this old straw jar at a resale shop for 50¢ a few weeks ago and I knew it was perfect for my favorite pencils.  I am a proud Ticonderoga pencil snob!  I added the vinyl letters by making use of my Silhouette.

My husband made me a wooden bench for my classroom and I decided it needed a few pillows.  I forced myself to dig through my scrap bin and look for fabric (instead of going to the store to buy more when I promised myself I would try to use some of the craft supplies I have before buying more).  I'll include a picture of the new pillows on the new bench when I get brave enough to face the mountain.  Excuse the dark picture, but it was pretty much dark by the time I finished.

I'm also working on another sewing project, but the big reveal will have to wait until next week. Hopefully, it will be finished in time for the next Monday Made It.

Head over to visit Tara to see other Made It Monday creations!

Fourth Grade Frolics

Happy Monday!

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!