Sunday, June 30, 2013

Quote of the Week -- June 30, 2013

"School is an unnatural place to learn." Unknown

I don't know who actually said this.  I read it on a teacher forum and was unable to verify it.  As most of us are on summer break, I just needed the reminder that life-long learners don't need a teacher to keep them going.
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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Currently July...a little early

I was a little surprised this morning to see Currently July already up.  Oh well, I was working on my blog anyway.
Currently I am listening to the birds outside.  It's supposed to be 80 today which in Seattle is rare.
Currently I am loving the time I have to work outside.  My garden got away from me and I am bringing it back into some order.
Currently I am thinking that I need to get out of my PJs.  It's Saturday morning, right?
Currently I am wanting to try out a new recipe for Mexican food I pinned.  Summer is the time for me to experiment in the kitchen.
Currently I am needing nothing.  I am content.
My tip is to give yourself a field trip this summer.  Immerse yourself in an experience you wouldn't have thought of trying.  This past week I went to my first auction.  I lost out on what I wanted to buy, but it was still fun to watch how it all works in real life...not on TV.
Head on over to Oh Boy 4th Grade and link up with the July party.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Past, Present, and Future -- Free Writing Lesson

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When creating the bundle Writing Past, Present, and Future with Intermediate Students, I designed an extra activity that is not a part of the products I combined.  Students choose an every day event, like going to school, and brainstorm what that event would be like for a child in a time period in the past, what it is like now, and what they think it will be like in the future.

This week's freebie is the graphic organizer I use to teach this lesson. 

I hope you enjoy this activity with your students.  For more information about my Teaching Genre units, click here.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Shrek by William Steig

Just in case you didn't know, before Shrek was a movie it was a wonderful book by William Steig.  The movie has very little to do with the book.

I shared this with my fourth graders and decided to avoid the obvious lesson of book vs. movie.  Instead we talked about the story structure as a fractured fairy tale.  Shrek is an unusual hero.  His parents kick him out to seek his fortune.  A donkey tells Shrek his fate.  Shrek has a happy ending that fits his character, but probably not that of a traditional fairy tale.

Students can create their own fairy tale or analyze this one with this graphic organizer.
For an explanation of my rating scale, click here.
Find me at Goodreads.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer Plans -- Dream Big

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I'm finally on summer vacation.  I say finally because many in the blogging world ended their school year in May and have already started their back to school promotions.  :(

I want a balance this summer between work and play, so I made a list of what I want to accomplish, with room.

1. Summer Theater Workshop -- this is becoming a tradition.  I help out a creative husband and wife team who lead this two week workshop for middle school and high school students.  I learn so much every year.
2. Writing Goals -- I have curriculum, blog posts, and fiction I want to write.  I am creating a weekly schedule so I can stay on track, but I'm setting what I think are reasonable goals.
3.  Ecclesiastes -- my stepdaughter and her friends are in their senior year of high school or in their freshman year of college this fall.  This book has a lot of wisdom in it.  My theme is there are some experiences you can learn vicariously through the mistakes of others.
4. Walking -- I need to get back on an exercise plan.
5. Water -- I find I don't drink enough water during the school year, because using the restroom isn't convenient.
6.  Professional goals -- I have a class I need to take and I will begin reviewing Common Core this summer, too.  I don't want these goals to take over my life.

Have a good summer.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Quote of the Week -- June 23, 2013


"We must be clear about where we're going if we want anyone to help us get there."

Simon Sinek

Friday, June 21, 2013

Classroom Library Genre Sort -- FREE

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Frequent readers of my blog know that I make sure that I teach reading and writing skills across genre.  (For more on my Teaching Genre products click here and here.)

Today's freebie is a Genre Sort that I use with my students in our classroom library.  I use these four definitions when I introduce Realistic Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, and Fantasy.  I have students find and record examples on the form.  I find that it is a good formative assessment of my students understanding of the books in our library.  It also gets them into a book that they might not have seen before.

I hope you enjoy Genre Sort with your students.  Thank you to my Facebook Page followers for helping me choose this week's freebie.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I Just Signed Up with Bloglovin

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Google Reader is going away July 1, so I just signed up for Bloglovin so I can continue to follow the great teaching blogs I have found in the last couple of years.  Megan at I Teach. What's your Superpower? has a 90 second video explaining how to claim your blog.  It's so easy.
If you have been following me on Google Reader, I invite you to connect with me on Bloglovin or Facebook.  I enjoy having the extended staff lounge the internet provides.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds


Creepy Carrots was a great book to teach my students synthesis: changing your mind as you read.  I had students collect evidence as I read to support their idea about what was really happening in the story.  I intentionally delayed reading the ending which removes all doubt.

Jasper Rabbit loves to eat carrots until they start following him everywhere.  The students argued whether the carrots were really creeping or if it was just Jasper's overactive imagination.  Evidence in the text and especially the pictures causes the reader to change his mind while he reads the story.

Here is a graphic organizer for students to keep track of how their thinking changes throughout the story.

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

Monday, June 17, 2013

Field Day 2013

Last week was field day.  At our school, the P. E. teachers create stations and teachers walk their classes from station to station and supervise. 

I started observing my students through a different lens.  There were those who were content with the activity that we were at.  There were those who were constantly looking ahead to see what was next.  There were those who were distracted with other concerns.  Only the first group really enjoyed field day.

Tomorrow is the last day of school.  When I look at the school year, I realize I have responded in each of these three ways at times this year.  Some days, I am looking ahead so much I'm not paying attention to what I am doing now.  Some days, I am sick or tired or hungry or in desperate need of a bathroom break and I have trouble focusing.  The times I am most content are when I am focused on what I am teaching this group of students right now.  It's not that I don't plan or take care of personal needs.  I just need to spend more time in this moment with these students.

I have enjoyed this class of students.  I only have a few more moments with them.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Quote of the Week -- June 16, 2013

"A child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer."

Author Unknown

Have a good week,

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I was a featured teacher

My favorite part of becoming a teacher/blogger is the community.  My virtual staff room has expanded and I get to meet all sorts of people and share great ideas.

Sara Ventrella at Miss V's Busy Bees has a Friday Featured Teacher post.  I am privileged to be featured this week.  I encourage you to check out her blog.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Monster Boxes and Character Plans

Last week I shared a project that I made with my students that did not require saving boxes.  This week I wanted to share an activity that made saving boxes so worth it.

I found the original activity on Pinterest, but I didn't want to deal with paint that week.  I taught my students to wrap tissue boxes like a present, leaving a hole in the paper where there is a hole in the box.  We used egg cartons to make the eyes.

On the original site where I found this idea, the creator made these into Tattle boxes.  Students could report their concerns to the monster.

I found these posted just before Valentines Day, so we made them our mail boxes.

I also want to use them as story starters.  Students create the monsters and write a story inspired by this character.  I have included a free download worksheet with some questions for students to answer about their character.  Click here.

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, June 12, 2013

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

I used this book to teach the difference between making predictions and making inferences.  A small fish steals a big fish's hat.  Throughout the story, there are predictions students can make as they read using clues in the text and pictures.  They find out in the next page or two if their prediction is correct.

The end of this book is somewhat ambiguous.  Students must infer what happened.  The author never tells for sure.  I made my students choose how they thought the book ended and stand on a side of the room to demonstrate their choice.  Then they had to discuss first with a student who agreed with them and then with someone who disagreed with them why they believed their version of the story.

Here is a graphic organizer for students to keep track of how their thinking changes throughout the story.

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

Monday, June 10, 2013

Skagit Bridge is Falling Down

Between Seattle and the Canadian border, I-5 crosses several rivers.  Our system of bridges keeps transit and tourists moving.  Thursday evening before Memorial Day weekend, one of those bridges collapsed.  My brother-in-law, who works for the Department of Transportation's bridge division was hoping that politicians wouldn't use this as a photo op, but instead let the experts fix the problem.

I can't help but relate to this sentiment when it comes to education.  Yes, we rely on tax money to fund our schools.  That doesn't make our legislators experts on education, anymore than they are experts on bridge design.

Friday, June 7, 2013

3D Scenes without Saving Shoe Boxes

While I was working on the product Writing Science Fiction with Intermediate Students, I wrote out the directions for how I have my students illustrate their stories.  I talk to them about how authors create a story world with setting, props, rules, and government structures.  I have them make this project to embellish their own story world.

I use this structure for other projects and thought I would share just these directions with you.  Click here for the free Google Doc.

My favorite part of this project is that it is created with construction paper squares.  I don't have to collect boxes for a month to create these scenes.  I use them for ecosystems and book reports as well as illustrations for stories.

I hope you and your students enjoy making 3D Scenes.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Please Do Not Read This Book to Your Students

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple is being passed around the teachers at our school.  We are not sharing this with our students.  I teach at a school just north of Seattle where this story is set.  Bernadette has disappeared and her young daughter sets out to find her using letters, emails, and legal documents as clues.
Those of us who work in schools will find the exchanges between the parents of an exclusive school hilarious.  I wondered if someone had camped out in our parking lot at parent pick up time for one scene. 
I just had to recommend a great summer read.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Seeking Balance Part 2

Two weeks ago, I wrote how I want to seek better balance in my life.  I often feel my life is dominated by my profession.  Teaching is my career, not my identity.

The first thing I want to do is figure out what kind of teacher I am. There are so many voices telling who I need to be and what I need to do as a teacher.  I can't do everything.  I can't compare myself with everyone else. I need to decide what is most important and do that.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Quote of the Week and Teaching Genre

"There are a lot of ways to become a failure, but never taking a chance is the most successful." - Anonymous

From now until tonight at 9:00 PDT, you can buy the whole Teaching Genre series for $20.  Look for the four featured items in my TPT store.  This series includes 25 Book Reports and nine Writing Genre units.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

June Currently with Oh Boy Fourth Grade

True confession: I have been blogstalking Oh' Boy 4th Grade today so I could participate in Currently.  I love this monthly chance to meet new blogging friends.


I'm listening to More or Less, an audiobook by Jeff Shinabarger.  It is challenging me with the question "What is enough?"

I'm loving that it's Saturday. The students are really wound up right now, and I need the rest.  I just got back from a walk.

I'm thinking about how well Young Authors' Day went yesterday at our school.  We had several authors do book signings.  Students went from session to session and learned from different teachers and volunteers.  I posted the handouts for my session yesterday.

I'm wanting people to stop advertising "Back to School" sales when I have two more weeks of this year.  (You know who you are .)

I'm needing a focus for summer.  I have so many things I want to accomplish, but I don't want to be overbooked.

My vacation essentials: more water, long walks, and more sleep.  I feel like I'm limping through the school year and we have two more weeks.  I can't wait to have time to recoup.

Store News:
From now until Sunday evening, you can buy the whole Teaching Genre series for $20.  Look for the four featured items in my TPT store.  This series includes 25 Book Reports and nine Writing Genre units.

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