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?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Science Research Museum

Looking for a fun way to enrich your students in science, while also studying for the upcoming state test?

Why not try creating a Science Research Museum?

A few months ago I submitted a proposal for materials through the website Donors Choose and it was fully funded.  Eeeekkkk...I LOVE Donors Choose!  We received $694.75 worth of materials such as a magnetic easel, construction paper, crinkle-cut craft scissors, glue-dots, t-shirts, fabric makers, and iron-on transfer paper.  I also had a class set of tri-fold poster boards left over from a previous school year.

Upon receiving these materials, students selected a science topic, of their interest, to further research (based on science concepts learned this year) and began collecting resources and gathering facts.  

I collaborated with special area teachers throughout the last month to work on this project.  Our librarian assisted students during library time to find books and articles to learn more about their topic.  In the computer lab students used child-friendly search engines (such as Kid Rex, Fact Monster, and Kids Click) to further their research.  Our art teacher assisted with creating t-shirt designs.

Students decorated t-shirts to wear at their museum presentation.  They created an illustration with fabric markers on the front of their t-shirt.  They traced their design on to the shirt using a make-shift light table.  I purchased Sterilite Organizing Trays and placed Christmas lights underneath them.  The t-shirts fit perfectly over top of the "light table."  These photos really don't do them justice.  They worked out very well.  

Students used the website to create a word cloud with key vocabulary based on their science topic.  This design was printed and ironed on to the back of their t-shirt. 

Students organized interesting facts, typed paragraphs, and collected pictures and photographs.  These were used to create a tri-fold poster.  Posters were set up on display in the Large Group Instruction Room for other 4th grade students to view throughout the day.  Classes signed up for a time slot to view the museum.  Upon entering, students grabbed a pencil, clipboard, and packet.  The packet was used to record interesting facts learned from each poster.  This served as a great review for the upcoming NYS Science Test.

Parents also came to view our Science Research Museum.  Students presented to them while cookies and juice were served.

All in all, our Science Research was not only a fun way to review for our New York State Science Test,  but was also an engaging vehicle to motivate students to research science topics of their interest further.

How do you review for state tests?