Monday, July 14, 2014

Student Reflection Turn-In Bins for Monday Made-It

I've spent the last few days foraging through Pinterest in hopes to find some unique ways to help my classroom to become more organized and for my students to become more self-reflective, independent, and accountable for their learning.

One of the amazing pins I stumbled across was from A Classy Collaboration's blog.  Ciera mentions the struggle of knowing (while grading papers at home) whether or not students did not try their hardest, or truly didn't understand the concepts taught.  It is important to provide students with opportunities to reflect upon their work before turning it in.

I really liked her "reflection station" and wanted to create one of my own.  So, here are my Student Reflection Turn-In Bins and Poster.

Want a copy for yourself?  Snag a free copy here in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Check out all the other creative projects on Tara's blog 4th Grade Frolics.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Reading in the Wild - Chapter 2

What is on your summer reading list?

One of my top reading picks this summer is Donalyn Miller's: Reading in the Wild.  Have you read her other book, The Book Whisperer?  If you liked it this is the perfect book for you!

Today I'm linking up with Catherine, The Brown Bag Teacher, for her Reading in the Wild book study.

This week's focus is chapter 2.

Chapter 2 emphasizes that we need to improve student ability to self-select books with positive reading experiences and frequent opportunities to preview, share, and discuss books.

On a side note, the adorable tiger clip above is from the creative Krista Wallden.

We can improve student ability to self-select books through . . .

1 - Read Alouds

Last summer, our principal sent out post-cards for each teacher to fill out with a message about what they read over the summer.  The post-cards were hung in the hallway for the first day of school.  Students were eager to see which read alouds their teacher selected.

I like to start each school year by having students share their favorite read alouds.  This helps me begin to gauge student reading interests and abilities right on day one.

Throughout the school year we invite mystery readers to pop-in to our classroom.  We've had other teachers, parents, and community members volunteer to read aloud to students.

A few years ago I kept a timeline of books that we read.  I posted a picture of the cover page of each book read so that we could easily refer back to them throughout the school year.  Although time consuming, it served as an amazing resource throughout the school year.

2 - Creating Book Buzz

I order many books through Scholastic's Book Order with bonus points.  Many students do not order their own personal books.  However, they are still eager for our book order to arrive knowing that there will be new books for our class included.  Book raffles were mentioned in chapter 2.  I think this is a great idea.  I often have more than one student who would like to read one of our new books, this would be a fun way to organize it.

On our last day of school we had a book exchange.  Students brought in used, age-appropriate books, that they no longer wanted and we lined them up throughout the classroom.  I provided students with bags and a few  new Scholastic books to start with and then they lined up and browsed all the titles.  When they found books they liked they filled their bags.  This served as a great way to build up their summer reading collection and to spark their interest to read.

3 - Reflecting on Reading Choices

It is important throughout the school year to pause and find time to conference with students about their book selections.  No time?  Try out a survey or self-reflection worksheet.  I like to meet with students 1:1 during independent reading.  I have 2 students that I plan to meet with individually each day before I start pulling small groups for guided reading.

4 - Creating Preview Stacks

Often students struggle to find a good book on their own.  This is when it is a good time to create preview stacks. These are stacks of a variety of books that you think the student might enjoy based on information you have gathered about him or her through surveys, reflection sheets, conferences, or your own observations.  Students borrow this stack and look through each book in hopes to find a keeper.

5 - Keeping Track of Your Reading Life

This is definitely one area I hope to improve.  I always start the year off strong with book graphs and logs.  Then, as the school year speeds up and free time seems to disappear, we start to ease up a little on the paperwork that follows our independent reading.  I hope to find a way to better track reading without adding on any extra tedious paperwork.

6 - Engaging Classroom Libraries

Here is an old photograph of my classroom library.

Our classroom library holds over 2,000 books.  The books are organized by genre and guided reading level.  I store books in plastic shoe boxes that I got for $1 at Walmart.  They have held up very well over the years and I haven't had to replace any yet.

I have students browse the classroom library in the morning when they arrive.  Students store the books they are currently reading in book bins.  They can store 2-3 books in their book bin at a time.

How do you promote self-selection of reading material in your classroom?

Check out all the other posts about chapter 2 and link up with your ideas.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Stitch Fix Review 1 - July 2014

I received my 1st Fix today . . . Stitch Fix that is.  I loved the experience of receiving my own personalized Fix so much that I wanted to share it with you.  Stitch Fix did not ask me to review their product, I just wanted to pass the experience along to you!

Have you heard of Stitch Fix?  Stitch Fix is an fabulous fashion retail company that assigns you a personal stylist who handpicks you a "Fix" of 5 clothing items and accessories (based on your style profile) and delivers them right to your front door.  Each Fix is customized to your unique taste, budget, and lifestyle.

You are not obligated to purchase anything, shipping is FREE, and the initial $20 you pay when you schedule your first fix is deducted from the price of any items you purchase.

No time to shop?  No problem!  Schedule your Fix and 5 amazing pieces, picked just for you, will arrive at your door for you to try on in the convenience of your own home. 

My box arrived beautifully wrapped and I had a personalized letter addressed to me from my new personal stylist.  Here is the letter I received from the magnificent Megumi.  I love how she mentioned specifics from my Pinterest page and my style profile!

When I scheduled my Fix I mentioned the following:
  1. I want fun, yet conservative and comfortable outfits that I can wear to school since I am a 4th grade teacher.
  2. I do not wear high heels or earrings....sorry!
  3. I would love dresses or skirts but they need to have pockets so that I can keep my continuous glucose monitor close since I have Type 1 Diabetes.

Here is what I got:

Al Linen Wide Leg Pants by Sanctuary - $128

I absolutely LOVE these pants.  The fabric is extremely comfortable and the pockets are nice and deep.  The drawstring is perfect in case I finally loose a few more pounds of post-baby weight.  Just tie it tight and you'll be alright.  I want to keep these very badly.  However, they are about 4 inches too long and I only wear flats.  I tried them on with a pair of my old high school bulky heels just to check the length and they were still dragging on the floor.  If I kept these I would definitely have to hem them shorter and I'm just not willing to do that for the price.  I would love to purchase a pair of these exact same pants....only shorter!

Final verdict - Sent back!

Ivy Crochet Back Tab-Sleeve Blouse by Market and Spruce - $68

My initial thought upon pulling this little gem out of the box was, "Wow, this shade of turquoise is amazing and the details on the back are very unique."  The color definitely pops and my pale skin looks much better with a little (or a lot) of color.  The back of the shirt has a floral, see-through pattern so you definitely have to wear a tank top under this shirt.  I love the 3/4 sleeves, even though they don't stay up very well.  I could unbutton the sleeves and wear this as a long sleeve shirt.  The fabric on the front of the shirt is a little too sheer and was not very forgiving of my post-baby belly.  Maybe after I complete the Insanity Workout Challenge it will look a little better.  It is definitely my style.  What do you think?

Final Verdict - Still undecided!

Aleah V-Neck Solid Doman Sleeve Shirt from Pomelo - $48

I loved the fit of this shirt.  It's baggy on top and then form fitting around my waist.  The sleeves are 3/4 length which is perfect for hiding my Omnipod Insulin Pump when I wear it on my arm.  The neckline was the perfect size and not too revealing.  My only issue is the color.  I wish that it was blue, green, or burgundy.  I'm just not digging the off-white.  Hello armpit stains....yuck!

Final verdict - Sent back!

Trixie Dot Print Pants by Sweet Rain - $28

I'm not going to lie, I giggled a little upon pulling these out of the box.  I've never seen a pair of pants quite like these.  The fabric reminded me of pajama pants.  They were comfy, however, I can't picture myself wearing these anywhere except to bed and I don't really care to be fashionable there.  My biggest problem was that they were tight around my ankles.  I like pants with wider legs or a little flare.

I don't know, maybe they aren't so bad....just not my style.

Final Verdict - Sent back!

Jeana 3/4 Sleeve Surplice Front Geo Dress by 41Hawthorn - $78

Ahhhh....I have saved my FAVORITE for last.  This is a pattern that I would never have picked out in the store.  It makes me dizzy just looking at it on the computer screen.  However, as soon as I tried it on it won my heart.

First off, it not only has a string around the waist, but it also has pockets.  That's right, a dress with pockets.  Finally a place to store my meter.
 Plus, with 3/4 sleeves and a fun, darker pattern how could I resist?

Final verdict - KEPT!!!

So, how did I do?  Do you agree with what I kept and with what I sent back?

Stitch Fix

Want to snag your own Stitch Fix?  Use my referral link here.  By going through this link you will help me feed my next Fix!

....and while you are at it, check out some other Stitch Fix Reviews at A Whisicle Life.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Reading in the Wild - Chapter 1

What is on your summer reading list?

One of my top reading picks this summer is Donalyn Miller's: Reading in the Wild.  Have you read her other book, The Book Whisperer?  If you liked it this is the perfect book for you!

I was inspired to read this book when I noticed Catherine, The Brown Bag Teacher's, book study.

Catherine's split Chapter 1 up into two weekly posts but I'm a little late to the party so I am going to combine both together so that I am all caught up.

Chapter 1 focuses on dedicating time to read.  Not just in the classroom, but at home as well.

As teachers, we experience many road blocks that prevent us from our own free reading, so it is only fair to assume the same for our students.  Personally, my biggest road block is a lack of time and energy.  I purposefully wait for extended breaks from school, or a random snow day, to squeeze in a good book.  I need to be more intentional in my search to find extra reading "moments"....while waiting at the doctor's office, riding (as a passenger) in the car, sitting on the get the idea.  The key is to remember to bring a book with you....EVERYWHERE!!!

To make this point clear, I am going to have students start storing their book bins under their desks rather than on top of the bookshelf.  Students use book bins to store their books.  I use to have students get up to get their book bin at the start of independent reading, and then I'd require them to put it back at the end of our 20-30 minutes of reading.  However, this year I plan on having students bring their book bin to their desk immediately upon arriving in school and then keeping it with them until it is time to clean up for dismissal.  That way, if students complete their work early or have a few extra moments they can squeeze in some extra reading.

I will also stress the importance of bringing a book with them to lunch, on the bus, while waiting in line to use the restroom, etc...  My hope in implementing this in our classroom, will be that they will carry it over when they go home..

Alyssa, from Fourth Grade Racers, posted about using Wordle.  I love making word clouds.  We used ABCYA to create word clouds with key science vocabulary this year and then ironed our designs on to t-shirts.  I think I may kick start independent reading with the creation of a word cloud containing a student generated list of when we can squeeze in extra reading time.  This can be blown up into a poster and displayed in the classroom to refer back to or shrunk down and turned into bookmarks for each students to have as a nifty reminder.
Our district requires that students read for 20 minutes each night.  We currently encourage our reading school-to-home connection with various activities...

Chapter one mentions the importance of providing students with as much time as possible to read in class, in-case they can not squeeze in enough time at home.  After all, we can not control what goes on in their home life like we can in our classroom.  Which brings me to my Language Arts block.

This upcoming school year our principal has created our schedule for us.  We are being given 1 hour for Engage NY's ELA modules and another hour for independent reading, centers, and guided reading.  Here is what my schedule might look like on a typical day:

ELA Module - This year, our school will be using Engage NY's ELA Modules.  The module lessons take about 1 hour to complete and integrate science and social studies content with reading and writing.  They contain high level texts, close reading activities, writing about reading, collaborative learning, and much more.  They are free for anyone to use and you can check them out and download all the lessons and resources here.

Reading Block - I try my hardest to group students into 3 reading groups based on reading level and skill.  My groupings change frequently throughout the year as students progress levels and change in strengths and needs.  With 3 reading groups come 3 center rotations that each last about 20 minutes.  Students meet with me for a guided reading lesson, they read independently and/or respond to text in writing, and complete a third center.  The third center is either a word work activity, a writing activity (often the homework from that day's module lesson since our district has decided not to send it home) or RAZ Kids on the computer or Kindle.  I love RAZ Kids because it provides students with choice in text, assesses their comprehension (and sends me reports), and rewards students for their efforts.  RAZ Kids can also be used at home which expands the amount of on-level texts available to students outside of school.

Chapter 1 suggests that you use 1/3 of your reading block for independent reading.  If you ignore the module time, we will be right on target!!!

Chapter 1 also mentions the importance of conferencing with students.  I hope to integrate that somewhere into our schedule.  I know most teachers are not given 2 hours for Language Arts, however, I always feel that no amount of time is ever enough.

Check out all the other posts about chapter 1 and link up with your ideas.

Friday, June 27, 2014

End of Year Book Exchange

Students celebrated our last day of school with an exciting book exchange.

A few weeks ago, I sent home a letter asking for book donations.  Students brought in old, age appropriate books, that they no longer wanted.  I spread them out all around the classroom along the window sills, along the desks, and along the tables.  

I put together bags for students to use to hold their new summer book collection.  I started their collection with two brand new books ($1 books from Scholastic), bookmarks, stickers, and a CD with our class photos.

Students lined up and took turns walking around the room and filling their bag with new (to them) books, one at a time.  

Students were excited to bring their summer book collection home to kick start their summer reading.

 How do you encourage summer reading?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Fun Beach Themed Day

Friday was our last full day of school so we decided to celebrate with a fun beach themed day.

Students spent the day participating in various beach themed activities!

Upon arriving, students greeted each other by saying, "Aloha."  They gave each other a colorful Hawaiian Leis.  I got a 6-pack of Leis at the Dollar Tree for $1.00.  What a steal of a deal.

Outside we played a fun game of Octopus Tag.  Students would line up on one side of the field.  One student was selected to be the Octopus.  They would try to tag students as they would race to the opposite side of the field.  Students who were it had to sit in the ocean (the middle of the field) and assisted the octopus in tagging other students.  Last student standing won and became the new octopus.

Have you tried GoNoodle yet?  GoNoodle has lots of child friendly brain breaks.  Today we danced to Wipeout and Surf's Up.

I actually stole this idea from Thursday's Field Day but it fit right in with our beach theme.  Students dressed up in scuba gear, life jackets, held a fishing pole, and then raced to the finish line.  Have you ever ran with fins on your feet?  Forget running, I can barely walk with them on.

Students brought beach towels, sunglasses, and a good book and read outside along the creek in the warm sun!

After a long and fun filled day students sat down to enjoy a crazy, cool, colorful treat:  Sweet Philly Swirl Italian Ice.  They loved the various flavors and delicious candy sticks to dip in it.

Lastly, students ended the day by blowing up a beach ball, grabbing a permanent marker color of their choice, and autographing each other's beach balls.

Graphics and background for this post are from the lovely Krista Wallden.

How do you celebrate the end of the school year?