Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When the Cherry Blossoms Fell by Jennifer Maruno

I have read several books about how the Japanese were treated in World War II in the United States, but I had not read any about their experiences in Canada.  I loved meeting this family and rooting for them as they faced discrimination and their forced move to a new life. 

Here is a graphic organizer to compare and contrast this book with one of a similar theme.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Lesson Fidelity

I just read a funny account of a plumber fixing the sink during a lesson over at Yearn to Learn.  I could relate to her experience.  For some reason this year, I have been plagued with interruptions.

A few months ago, my classroom projector was dimming and yellowing the images I was showing with the document camera.  Our technology person said that the bulb was going out, but that it was district policy to wait until the bulb was completely out before it could be replaced. Um...okay.

The next day the bulb went out -- with a loud pop and sparks in the middle of a lesson.  It took a long time to get my students back on task.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Saturday, February 23, 2013

April 2013 Poetry Challenge -- Free

 I want to invite other upper elementary classrooms to join mine in the April 2013 Poetry Challenge: Thirty Poems in Thirty Days.  I modelled it after the National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) where poets write a poem a day for the month of April.

I have chosen five poetry forms and a key word each day.  There are directions and examples for each form and a rubric I use to grade projects like this.

I plan to complete the challenge on my poetry blog Poems of Silliness.

Update June 2014: I have replaced the April 2012 & April 2013 challenges with 10 Poetry Forms.  This packet is all the same poetry lessons in one place.  To download the freebie 10 Poetry Forms from TPT, click here.  To download the freebie 10 Poetry Forms from TN, click here.Hope you can join me.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Shamrock Patterning Freebie

I don't remember where I first found this activity, but I know it was before I had a computer in the classroom.  I traced tagboard patterns onto graph paper for each of my students.  We were studying patterns in math and this was a favorite project in March.

I made this pattern in three sizes of graph paper: one inch, half inch and quarter inch.  Older students with fine tipped markers or colored pencils may want to attempt the smallest squares.

Click on the link below the thumbnail to download this Google Doc. I hope your students enjoy this project.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Genius Files by Dan Gutman

The Genius Files series by Dan Gutman has the combination of action and humor that appeals to a 9-12 year-old student.  Coke and Pepsi McDonald are part of a secret government program which means they are a target for several criminals.  The McDonalds are on a family trip across the U. S. in an RV.  The 13-year-old twins have to manage the life and death battles alongside the typical conflicts of a family road trip.

Click here for a free printable summary organizer called Elements and Events.
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Find me at Goodreads.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Summer in the City by Kathleen M. Wainwright

One of my teacher blogger friends at The Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher has a picture book coming out soon.  Her virtual book tour starts today.

Also on her site you can preview the book and enter a giveaway.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Prepare to be Assimilated

"We are the Borg.
Lower your shields and surrender your ships. 
We will add your biological and technological
distinctiveness to our own.
Your culture will adapt to service us.
Resistance is futile." (Star Trek: First Contact, 1996)

I'm really not a Star Trek fan, but I have known enough at different stages of my life that I know the about the Borg.

One morning after a faculty meeting, I was reflecting on how much we are run from the top down in our district and how much that is increasing.  My principal led the meeting, but it was clear that she was reading a script prepared from the administration.  I started thinking about how often lately she has to read from the script they provide.  I am glad that I made the decision twelve years ago not to become a principal. I hate reading scripts.

We took a decision-making survey that we take every year to evaluate our building culture and ability to work together.  This year two areas were deleted by upper administration: vision and professional development.  (I thought without vision, the people perish.)  These areas are now decided by district, so we don't have to decide.

I've stopped complaining about our erratic heating system that is so dysfunctional, it was louder than the students on the playground.  I bring layers to school, because I never know what the climate will be like in my room.  Oh, it's centrally controlled off-site at (you guessed it) administration.

We are being told about the importance of a guaranteed curriculum.  We are all given the same box of materials and a pacing calendar.  Be on page 278 by March 8.  So many talented teachers I know are feeling less successful, and they don't feel they have permission to teach the way they believe.

Here is my new creed:

We are individuals.  We will not surrender our individual minds and creativity.  We will add our talents to the mix while keeping our uniqueness.  We will serve our communities with thoughtful intent.  We will resist futility.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

Free Homework Reading Log

At our school, students are expected to read at home and keep a reading log.  Each teacher manages this in his or her own way.  I have used many reading logs with my students.  Today I wanted to share a fairly simple one as a freebie.  Click the link under the thumbnail to download from Google Drive.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Melvin Beederman Superhero Series by Greg Trine

I discovered this series when one of my students began reading book two at school.  Since I am always searching for books for my reluctant readers, I went to the library to read them for myself.  They definitely have a place in my classroom library.

Melvin Beederman is a superhero with a Kryptonite like weakness for bologna.  He meets his sidekick in book one and there are currently eight books in the series.
Here is a link to my Heroes and Villains writing assignment post.  There are free printable worksheets so students can create a protagonist and antagonist for their own superhero story.

To find out more about my rating scale, click here.
Find me at Goodreads.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Power of Words

Pajama Day This Friday
This year I am the ASB advisor.  I love this job.  I get to meet with students from different classrooms who care about making school a better place to be.  I also get to write a couple sentences, hand it to the principal and people show up Friday wearing pajamas.

The first time I organized a Spirit Day, I started thinking about the power of words.  So much of what I accomplish starts when I write it down. I write lesson plans, newsletters, blog posts, and announcements.  I create curriculum for my students and write stories and poems for publication.

I know when I teach my students to write persuasively, I am giving them a life-long tool.  When I write a lawmaker or a business owner or a letter to the editor, I have the potential to change policies and influence lives.  I want my fourth graders to feel that power early in their careers.

Almost two years ago, I wrote up my unit about teaching students to write persuasively.  I posted it on Teachers Pay Teachers and this freebie was featured in the newsletter twice.  About thirteen thousand downloads later I am in awe of how far this unit has spread.  I'm still a little surprised that other teachers use what I write.  I don't think it's an accident that my most popular item passes along the power of words.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Quote of the Week -- February 10, 2013

Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. ~Henry Ford
Some weeks I have more opportunity than others.

Have a good week,

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fourth Grade Valentine Math Freebie

I created this worksheet for my students who are learning to multiply single-digit by double-digit numbers and larger numbers.  They resist estimating and thinking about how reasonable their answers are, so I added that as a feature to this activity. Click here to download Fourth Grade Valentine Math as a Google Doc.


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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The P.S. Brothers by Maribeth Boelts

I received this book as a gift for my classroom this fall.  What you need to know about this book is P. S. stands for Pooper Scoopers.  Shawn and Russell want a dog of their own and start their own poop scooping business to earn the $200 they need for a Rottweiler puppy.  Then they discover a potential crime.

Caution: there is animal violence in this book which is why I don't recommend it as a read aloud.  Animal violence makes me cringe, but I liked how the situation was resolved and feel comfortable recommending this to some of my students.

This is a good book to analyze character traits and how an aspect of a person's personality can create both problems and solutions.  Here is a graphic organizer to help students analyze positive and negative aspects of a particular trait.

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Find me at Goodreads.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Collecting Words

My stepdaughter was struggling with her online creative writing class.  Her instructor had assigned the class sestinas and my stepdaughter didn't understand the pattern and wasn't sure where to begin.

I love writing poetry, but I hadn't experimented with this form.  I read the directions and started in.  When I am teaching something new to someone else, I have to do it first and analyze how I approach it.  I discovered something about how I teach and learn:  I start almost every task like this collecting words.

Whenever I write a poem, I begin with collecting words.  When I'm working on a new unit of study, I start with vocabulary words.  Even when I write fiction, I am collecting names for people and places.  I collect more words than I need for the task which gives me more choices.   As a reader/writer/teacher, words are my tools.

A sestina has six stanzas with six lines each.  Each line of the stanzas end with the same six words, but in a different order each time.  There are three lines at the end called an envoi that have some of the same words repeated.

Once I had my six related words, I could fit them into the poem structure.  I encouraged my stepdaughter to pick up a book that interested her and choose six words.  She started with a Star Trek book and chose six words, but her resulting poem was a tribute to Dr. Who. (She hasn't let me read it yet.)

Here is my first attempt at a sestina called A Student's Sestina.  I know it's not a perfect one, but I'm excited about what I learned through the process.  I know words are powerful.  Now I have another way of teaching that to my students.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Quote of the Week -- February 3, 2013

“Teaching is no longer about delivering facts that are unavailable in any other format.” 
Seth Godin from Stop Stealing Dreams Section 44 “Defining the role of a teacher”

Friday, February 1, 2013

Currently for February

I am excited to link up with Farley for Currently February.

I am listening to "Gold Rush the Dirt" the reality TV show my husband is watching.
I am loving having 30 minutes to breathe before the evening activities begin.
I am thinking about what I am cooking for friends.  Every other week we get together with the same group of people and have a potluck.
I am wanting a nap, but sleep will wait.
I am needing to change out of Spirit Day clothes.  I need to look like I'm ready to spend time with adults.
My current pet peeve is interruptions by people who should know better when I'm teaching right now.

Link up with Oh Boy Fourth Grade and meet some new friends.

10 Ways to Use Top Ten Lists Freebie

I wrote and taught these materials for a Young Author's Conference we held at my school a few years ago.  I keep finding new ways to use them:

10. Use it as a prewriting strategy for a new topic or story.
9.   List ten grabber beginnings for your story or essay and choose the best one.
8.  List ten ways to end your story or essay and choose the best one.
7.  Have students list their Top Ten favorite books or create a list as a class by discussion and voting.
6.  Write a serious Top Ten list to wrap-up a unit of study.
5.  At the beginning of the school year, list the Top Ten things you are looking forward to.
4.  At the end of the school year, list the Top Ten events you had as a class.
3.  Use this list as a get-to-know you activity -- the Top Ten things you need to know about me.
2.  Write a silly Top Ten list like late night hosts write for their shows.
1. Write ten more ways to use lists to improve your writing.  Share one in the comments section.

To download this product, click on one of the choices below:
Top Ten in my Teachers Notebook Store
Top Ten in my Teachers pay Teachers Store

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