Monday, March 31, 2014

April is Poetry Month


April is Poetry Month.  Here are some ways to use poetry in class this month:

1. Have students cut out or copy favorite poems into a poetry notebook and create illustrations.
2. Have students read poetry individually and with partners.  Emphasize repeated readings for accuracy and fluency.
3. Read poetry in unison as a whole class.
4. Hold a poetry slam where students practice a poem to perform.
5.  Model different forms to use in short writing assignments or free writing tasks.
6. Have students use vocabulary words to create original poems.
7. Read through poems in small groups and look for literary devices, rhyme, rhythm, and different forms.
8. Read short poems as a sponge activity.  I sometimes read poetry at the end of the day when we are all packed up.
9. Post poetry around the room for students to discover.
10. Host a poetry writing challenge.  Have students set goals for the number of poems they will write.

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.



Sunday, March 30, 2014

Quote of the Week -- March 30, 2014

"If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves."
Thomas Edison

Friday, March 28, 2014

April 2014 Poetry Challenge

April is Write Poetry Month.

I want to invite you and your class to join me in writing poetry.   This activity does not have to take a lot of your day.  I teach just a few forms of poetry during the month and students can usually complete a task in 5-10 minutes a day.  It's a great entry task.

Along the way they learn to use tools like dictionaries and thesauruses.  Many reluctant writers are willing to write poetry, because the forms are so short and they get hooked.

This free download is available three places:

Click here to download April 2014 Poetry Challenge at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Click here to download April 2014 Poetry Challenge at my Teachers Notebook Store.

I have included a noun each day, five forms of poetry and a rubric I use for grading.  I will post the poems I write on Poems of Silliness: my poetry blog.

I would love to hear from classes and individuals who decide to join us.

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. April 2014 is still available and I already have plans for 2015.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Trouble with May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm

If you haven't read the May Amelia books by Jennifer L. Holm, I definitely recommend them...especially if you live in Washington State.  May Amelia lives in south western Washington in 1900.  She is the only girl in her Finnish immigrant farming family.  

May Amelia Jackson struggles to be a proper young lady.  I found a character my students could relate to set in a place a decade after Washington became a state.

Here is a free printable graphic organizer where students consider daily tasks in the past and present.  Then they imagine what those tasks would be like in the future.

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

Monday, March 24, 2014

What Are We Measuring?

I subscribe to Seth Godin's blog and in January he wrote a post called Measuring Nothing (with Great Accuracy).  Because we are in the middle of implementing a new teacher evaluation system in our district which must include student growth goals, I could immediately identify.

I can show that my students are learning.  The easiest attributes to measure are not the most important ones, though.  I want my students to persevere when a task is hard and be respectful to adults and other children.  I want to know that they will be successful adults some day.

I don't think this is on the test.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Quote of the Week -- March 23, 2014

"Life is no brief candle for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations." -- George Bernard Shaw

Friday, March 21, 2014

Books I Have Finished -- Free Printable

A little more than a year ago I posted the reading log I use with my students to keep track of the reading they do at home.

I wanted to share a different type of reading log I use to encourage students to finish books.  This printable can be used in a variety of ways.  I have cut apart each form to have students record books one at a time.  I have also printed a due date near the end of the month and told students they needed to set a goal for the number of books they would read that month. 

Happy First Day of Spring! (Technically yesterday)

This weekend, March 21-24 I am giving away a copy of Spring Vocabulary Builders from my Teachers Notebook Store.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Athlete vs. Mathlete by W. C. Mack


I was at the local library picking up some books I had on hold, when this title caught my eye.  I teach at a school that has two programs: one for the highly capable students in the district and one for the students who live in the neighborhood.  Yes, we have athletes and mathletes in both groups, but let's just say this competition isn't a foreign concept.

Russ and Owen Evans are twins.  Owen plays on the basketball team while Russ pursues more academic interests.  When a new basketball coach shows up, Owen has to try out for the team again and the new coach encourages Russ to try out too.  I liked how this book challenged stereotypes of nerd vs. jock.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Getting Ready for Science Fair 2014

At the end of this month, my students are participating in a school wide science fair.  We are caught right now between the state standards we have been using and the CCSS we are adopting.  I am still teaching my students the steps of conducting their own science project.  It takes much conferring on my part, but I believe it is worth it.

Click here for the graphic organizer I use to help students plan their own experiment.

Click here for the checklist I use to grade the experiments.

I focus on the scientific process during this project.  I might have twenty similar experiments, but I ask them all two questions:

1. What are you comparing?
2. What are you measuring?

The comparing question needs to be about a single variable.  I emphasize that they are creating two very similar systems and changing just one thing.  They isolate that one thing to see if it changes the results.

The measuring question is about those results.  They need to measure the time it takes for something to happen or the size or weight change with the appropriate tools.

If you have any questions for me about how I help my students with this, I welcome them in the comments.

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. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Quote of the Week -- March 16, 2014

The best companies don't look out their side windows, focusing on the competition. They look out the front window, focused on where they are going.

Simon Sinek

(I can say the same things about the best schools.)

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Leprechaun's Treasure -- A Fill in the Blank Story

If your students are like mine, they enjoy fill-in-the-blank stories as a way to practice parts of speech.  I wrote up this one for St. Patrick's Day next week and thought I would share it with all of you.  I hope you enjoy it.

Click here for a free download of "The Leprechaun's Treasure."

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Why Pi? by Johnny Ball

Have you read any math books by Johnny Ball? As a former UK television host of math and science for children, he knows how to present concepts in an entertaining and educational way.

These non-fiction books share the history of math and explain concepts.  They are loaded with text features.  Here is a free printable form students can use to record the text features they find and their purpose.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Asking Good Questions

If you have been teaching for awhile, you know that each class has its own personality.  Mine LOVE to ask each other questions. 

I discovered this when I set out the class meeting agenda.  In other years, students write problems on the agenda and we solve them as a class.  I have posted my process for this in an earlier post.

This year, I usually have one or two problems and a whole list of questions to discuss.  We have talked about what makes a good question for class meeting.  It usually comes down to: how many students can participate?

We live just north of Seattle and as the Seahawks made the playoffs and started their progress to the Super Bowl, I had a list of questions like:

Who is your favorite running back?
Who is your favorite quarter back?
Who is your favorite defensive end?
Did you watch the game this weekend?
Who do you think will win the Super Bowl?

We had to come up with rules for the questions.  You couldn't ask a question someone had just asked.  You had to ask a question that others might have some knowledge about.  Better questions gave us something to discover about one another.

I was very surprised when most of my students could answer the question: what is your favorite Minecraft Youtube video?  Who knew that was a good discussion question?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Quote of the Week -- March 9, 2014

"A very wise old teacher once said: "I consider a day's teaching wasted if we do not all have one hearty laugh." He meant that when people laugh together, they cease to be young and old, master and pupils, jailer and prisoners. They become a single group of human beings enjoying its existence." -- Gilbert Highet

Friday, March 7, 2014

Are You Ready for Pi Day?

Somehow students in my school have gotten the idea that we serve pie on March 14.  (For the uninitiated, March 14 is 3/14 and mathematicians celebrate Pi Day for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter: 3.14159265.)

Since pies are circle and pi is about a circle and I'm teaching my students about homophones, I created this activity for Pi Day.

I get frustrated with lessons that expect students to measure carefully enough to "discover" pi.  I prefer to explain the ratio and give students activities to use it.  It's not in CCSS until middle school, but this is a good exposure lesson.

You can serve pie if you wish.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lost and Found by Andrew Clements

A friend of mine, who has an identical twin brother, told me about dressing alike so no one could tell them apart. I was reminded of this by the plot of Lost and Found.

Ray and Jay Grayson move to a new town and figure out how to take turns going to their new school.  This means that every other day, each gets a day off.  Like many of Andrew Clements' books, what starts out as a simple situation becomes complicated and everyone involved learns a lesson.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Thank You, Mrs. Nixon

I found my middle school math teacher's obituary in the local paper and was sad I hadn't taken the time to thank her.  Mrs. Nixon may have been Richard Nixon's sister-in-law, but to me she was the best math teacher I ever had.

I remember how she made us solve problems systematically -- showing each step of our work.  I still use her method of teaching percentages more than 30 years later.

So often, we look to the latest strategies, but in my opinion good teaching is timeless.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Quote of the Week March 2, 2014

"No matter how he may think himself accomplished, when he sets out to learn a new language, science or the bicycle, he has entered a new realm as truly as if he were a child newly born into the world." -- Frances Willard

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Joining Currently March

I'm joining Oh Boy 4th Grade for Currently March.

I'm listening to giggling in the room next door.  My senior in high school has a friend over.

I'm loving that my errands are done for the day.

I need to plan some meals for the week.

I want a three day weekend to catch up on house things.

I need to get over this cold.

Life on the Bowery is the answer.  What is my question?
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