Monday, April 29, 2013

Testing Week Two

This week we finish our state testing.  I thought I would show you a picture of the poster we created with our Endurance and Encouragement slips. (Click here to read the original post about Endurance and Encouragement.  The Encouragement slips here are a Google Doc.)  I am using the poster to cover some of the anchor charts the students can't see while they are testing.

Our testing is going okay.  I tell my students in advance that they will hear me say:
"I'm sorry I can't answer that question." 
"Read the directions to yourself.  I trust you to make a good choice." 
"Make sure you check every page and answer every question."

When we were done testing for the day last Wednesday, one of my students asked if I was back to being their teacher now.  It's a good description of my role.

On an unrelated note, I took some time this weekend to finish two new writing genre units: Writing Historical Fiction and Writing Science Fiction.  They are both available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Quote of the Week -- April 28, 2013

"None are so empty as those who are full of themselves."
Andrew Jackson

Have a great week,

Friday, April 26, 2013

Science Plan Checklist

Three months ago I shared my Science Experiment Plan that I use with my students to develop their Science Fair Projects.  Science Fair was two months ago and I realized I never shared how I graded the projects.  Click here for the Google Doc version of my checklist for grading science projects.

The above image shows what the checklists look like.  I have them printed four to a page.  I chose to give 0-2 points for each item in the list and I communicated with students and parents how many points translated into a specific grade.

I also have a communication grade for this project, because I required an oral presentation.

Update: I have created a freebie for my Teachers Pay Teachers Store and my Teacher's Notebook Store that contains the forms I use and some directions.
Freebie Fridays
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Tribute to E. L. Konigsburg

I am sorry to report that one of my favorite authors is gone.  E. L. Konigsburg who wrote From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler has passed away.

I loved her books growing up, and I currently own a class set of "Mixed-up Files" to share with my students.  If you aren't familiar with the story, a brother and sister run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.  They investigate a mystery of a small statue that may have been created by Michelangelo.

This book captured my imagination because I loved mysteries and I loved being independent.  (Those who know me in real life can attest to this.)

For an explanation of my rating scale, click here.
Find me at Goodreads.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Testing This Week

This week we begin our state testing.  Washington State fourth graders spend a day each in reading and math.  They spend two days writing first a narrative and then an expository piece.

At this point our state does not use these scores to evaluate teachers.  I know this makes me less stressed and therefore my students are less stressed.

I don't overemphasize the tests in my teaching.  I want my students to do well.  I look at this as an opportunity to teach them how to take standardized tests.  They are not going away.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Quote of the Week -- April 21, 2013

"A fool must now and then be right, by chance."
 William Cowper

Have a great week,

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Guest Post and Link Up

Just a quick post to let you know a couple of things:

1.  I wrote a guest post for Diary of a Word Nerd about sharing poetry with children.  The blogger, Julia Tomiak titled it Poetry + Children = Silliness.  I am happy to be featured on her blog.

2. Mr. Hughes of An Educator's Life has a link up for freebies called Share the Wealth.  Mr. Hughes is also a contributor for All Things Upper Elementary, so his target audience is teachers of grades 3-6.

I hope you are enjoying your Saturday.

Friday, April 19, 2013

How to Use a Story Board when Teaching Narrative

My freebie this week is one I created as I prepared my students for the state writing test. My students spend one day writing a story to a prompt. Using a story board is one of the suggested prewriting strategies. To download the story board as a Google Doc click here.

I introduce the idea of the story board by finding out how many students know how their favorite animators organize their ideas.  Most animated DVDs have extra material on how the movie was made.  Just casually reviewing the choices on YouTube, I saw many writers who share their thought process.

I model my own story board and then talk about how to elaborate each scene using dialogue, description, and action.  Some students had to elaborate in several steps, because the idea of their story wasn't clearly communicated to others.

If you have students that need a little more direction, I have labelled the four sections: Beginning, Problem, Complication, and Resolution.  We talk about the elements of story and the importance of each.

You can purchase all ten forms I use for creative writing assignments and bulletin boards here in my Teachers Pay Teachers store and here in my Teachers Notebook store.  I have included at least two suggestions for each form that are not here on my blog.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Juvie Three by Gordon Korman

I would definitely recommend reading this with middle school students and discussing the relationships and the choices the characters make. It is not a book I would share with my fourth graders.

Gecko, Terence, and Ajay are in juvenile detention centers until Douglas Healy brings them to his group home to help them make it in society.  When something happens to Douglas, their group home should be disbanded, but the three boys continue as though nothing has happened to keep out of detention.

Here is a graphic organizer for readers to note how a character's strength might also cause problems.

For an explanation of my rating scale, click here.
Find me at Goodreads.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Wordsmith Studio

It started with a challenge on MNINB (My Name Is Not Bob).  A group of writers who follow Robert Lee Brewer, the poetry editor at Writer's Digest, committed to building our writing platforms every day for a month April 2012.  I was a little overbooked: teaching full time, family responsibilities, National Poetry Writing Month.  I decided to jump in and complete each of the thirty challenges.

I learned so much about social media this way.  I met a group of writers who were learning along with me.  I have had a chance to guest blog and link up with some of them.

This group became Wordsmith Studio -- a community of writers that support each other in the challenges and successes of writing.  This month we are celebrating the anniversary of the challenge. 

Happy Anniversary Wordsmith Studio!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Quote of the Week -- April 14, 2013

Optimism is the ability to focus on where we're going, not where we're coming from.”

Simon Sinek

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Not So Wise Owl Writing Prompt

In Aesop's fables owls are usually wise and helpful. 
This time write a fable where the owl needs to learn the lesson.
 Click here for my paid product Writing Fables with Intermediate Students available at TPT or TN.  This unit has directions for teacher and students, an assignment sheet, two original mentor texts, and a rubric for easy grading.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

A couple of months ago, I received this book in my school mailbox from Random House.  I had seen posters for it, but I hadn't bought a copy or read it.  I read it in a couple of days.  The main character has a birth defect that has caused him multiple surgeries.  In fifth grade he enters middle school, having been schooled at home up till now. 
Auggie's classmates don't quite know how to respond to his obvious differences.  The story is told from multiple perspectives.  The characters learn about courage, friendships and bullying.

I haven't decided yet if I will read it aloud to this year's class.  They are generally accepting of people with differences.  They had no problem filling our acts of kindness jar.  I don't have the issues with them that I have had other years.

On the other hand, I think they need to see the power of the bystanders in the world.  Bullies get more power when the group won't intervene.

Update June 2014: I did read this aloud to my students knowing that I would cry.  Here is a free printable form to analyze an event from multiple points of view.

For an explanation of my rating scale, click here.
Find me at Goodreads.

Monday, April 8, 2013

You really will need this later

Just a quick post to share an article I read last Thursday morning in the local paper: "Math problems are a problem for job-seekers, employers say"

To summarize, General Plastics Manufacturing Co. in Tacoma, Washington is having difficulty finding qualified workers who have basic math skills.  They only interview high school graduates, but applicants are failing a middle school level math test.

This depresses me.  I love math and teaching it to my students.  I constantly connect what we are learning to what they will need later.

The article mentions the trends toward Common Core and STEM education.  Maybe we need to teach delayed gratification.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Math Spies and Function Tables


Meet Maynard the Hacker.  He has hacked into the Math Spies Mathalator 3000 and sabotaged it so the Math Spies' Coded Messages won't work. 
Episode 5 of Math Spies is all about using function tables to solve coded messages.  When Maynard commits his nefarious scheme, only a skilled mathematician can find the mistakes, reprogram the Mathalator using the correct rule and decipher the messages.

Math Spies is my problem-solving website that I began developing as an after school class.  Each episode focuses on a strand of mathematics as the Math Spies combat evil with their superior computational skills.

If you prefer a paper pencil version of this unit, you can purchase this 14 page product from my Teachers Pay Teachers store or my Teachers Notebook store.

Classroom freebies
Freebie Fridays

Friday, April 5, 2013

Happy Birthday Teaching Blog Addict

Teaching Blog Addict - Ultimate Freebie

I'm glad that I have today off because of Spring Break.  I will be spending a good chunk of my time at Teaching Blog Addict's Birthday Celebration.  They are hoping to collect the largest set of freebies.  I plan to post some of my favorites from my TN store (see below) and also pick up some new items to try out with my students.

Message in a Bottle Writing Prompt
Arctic Word Sort
15 Terse Verse
Free Math Tools
List Poems
Color Poems
Hope you can attend.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Six Series for Girls

Several months ago, I wrote a post called Five Book Series for Boys.  I linked up with Swimming into Second and discovered many more titles I had to try.

I am writing a similar post called Six Book Series for Girls.  Here are six of my favorite series that encourage girls to form good friendships and a strong self-worth:

The Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter
I had this series recommended to me in several places before I took the time to read it.  The main characters are good friends who also happen to be enrolled in a spy school.  They do not wait around for the adults and the males to save them.

Airhead by Meg Cabot
Em Watts wakes up one day in the body of a supermodel.  She learns a lot about inner beauty vs. outer image.  She also has to defeat an evil corporation.  This book is more appropriate for middle school and above.

Enola Holmes Series by Nancy Springer
Did you know Sherlock Holmes had a much younger sister?  You will be convinced when you read this series.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier
I am happy to see this book in my fourth graders' hands.  The main character has to undergo a particularly long and painful experience with braces.  Over the years, she learns what true friends are like.

Ally Finkle's Rules for Girls by Meg Cabot
This series is most appropriate for upper elementary girls.

Ruby Lu by Lenore Look
I recommended this series recently to a mom that was looking for books for her fourth grade daughter.  Second through fourth graders would enjoy this book.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Currently April

I love how social teacher bloggers are.  I look forward to Currently each month.  It's like time in the faculty room with people I enjoy working with.  Visit Oh Boy 4th Grade for Currently April.

I'm listening to silence for a few minutes.  I know that it will be interrupted soon, but I'm enjoying the peace right now.

I'm loving that I'm on Spring Break this week.  March is a difficult month for me to teach and it is nice to have time off.

I'm thinking about my huge to do list.  Every vacation, I over plan.  Yes, I need to catch up, but I'm dragging my feet at the moment.

I'm wanting to just read my book.

I'm needing balance: read a chapter, do a chore, read a chapter, do another chore.

Advice: Don't answer the phone just because it rings.

Poetry Challenge Begins Today

Just a quick post to remind you that the April Poetry Challenge begins today.  I am posting my poems on Poems of Silliness.  If you never downloaded the packet, it's free on TpT and TN.

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.
Happy Writing!

For other poetry resources, stop by Mrs. O's Rockin Resources for her poetry link up.

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