Saturday, December 6, 2014

Olive the Other Reindeer Reader's Theater

I searched all over the Pinterest, TPT, and Google to find a Reader's Theater Script for "Olive the Other Reindeer" by Vivian Walsh and J.Otto Seibold. I couldn't find one, so I created my own version. Check it out on my TPT. This holiday book makes a perfect Reader's Theater. The script is for 8-10 parts. Of course, parts can be combined for fewer parts. The script is 3 pages in length. The text level is created for 1st-3rd grades. However, 4th and 5th graders would enjoy performing it as well. Add some adorable props like reindeer antlers and a Santa beard. Your students will LOVE performing this Reader's Theater.  And Don't forget to play "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"!

Olive, the Other Reindeer Reader's Theater

You Must Follow This Literacy Blog!

I follow a lot of blogs for ideas, materials, and inspiration. However, there is one blog that I subscribe to for researched based information on literacy. While I'm always searching for ways to engage my students, I'm also searching for research-based ways to increase student achievement. His content is up-to-date, references common core, and full of advice on teaching reading.

The blog is called "Shanahan on Literacy" by Timothy Shanahan. His research emphasizes reading-writing relationships, reading assessment, and improving reading achievement. He is past president of the International Reading Association. In 2006, he received a presidential appointment to serve on the Advisory Board of the National Institute for Literacy. He was inducted to the Reading Hall of Fame in 2007. He is a former first-grade teacher.

Some recent blog posts are: "What is the Proper Sequence to Teach Reading Skills", "Planning for Close Reading", and "To Teach Comprehension Strategies or Not to Teach Them". If you are a reading teacher of phonics and/or comprehension in any grade level, I urge you to follow this blog!

 Shanahan On Literacy Blog

Group Maker Apps

In my classroom, we do a lot of group work. My students don't have desks. They sit at large rectangular tables with chair pockets. This forms a natural group of 4 or 5 students. The usual way I create partners is by saying "your shoulder partner" (next to you)  or "your face partner" (across from you). Now sometimes,  students get tired of having the same partner/group or  TOO comfortable (super talkative or off task). To shake things up, I've used these two Group Maker apps. The first one is a free online website tool called "Instant Classroom" from Super Teacher Tools. All you have to do is sign up with your email.

 Instant Classroom

The second app, I use on my iPhone called "Team Shake". I like using this one because I'm able to access it quickly. It's not free, but it's worth the 99 cents! It's easy to use, and I can email myself the groups or take a screen shot.
 Team Shake

 Team Shake

So check out these apps the next time you form your groups. Let me know which one you like best!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Holiday Christmas Activities

The month of December flies by. We still have standards to cover, but I still want to  create opportunities for fun holiday activities.  I created this pack to teach our standards while having some holiday fun. This pack contains 19 pages for only $2! I included addition and subtraction math tasks and word problems with a Holiday twist.

The first page is a cute Christmas Graphic Organizer for students to complete independently.

The first page is a cute Christmas Graphic Organizer for students to complete independently.

There is a writing Graphic Organizer to help students recount Holiday Memories. The Graphic Organizer can be turned into Narrative Writing Paragraph/Piece. 

There are many Math Tasks/ Word Problems.

The last Math Task is connected to making a Handprint Wreath. Students solve the math tasks and create their own Handprint Wreath. Directions and tasks are included.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Ps and Qs

Ps and Qs. Bs and Ds. My struggling readers can't seem to get them right. I've tried every trick I can find on Pinterest, but nothing seems to work. I tried the thumb trick, the bed trick, sticky note reminders on desks, and the baseball & bat visual.  I asked some Special Education teacher friends for some advice, and they both told me that the reversals can be fixed with letter formation practice. So I watched my students write bs, ds, ps, and qs. I watched where they started the formation, and guess what? Their formations were totally incorrect.

I thought of a different way to teach these reversals. Since the letter q is usually associated with the word queen, I tell my students that q stands for queen. I say, "Q is a queen. She likes to put on her make up and lipstick first. So we must write her face first, then make the line for her hair." P stands for prince. I say, "The prince likes to have his body done first, then his face". 

I added a star to each letter to show where you should start when writing the letter. Here's the correct formation for Ps and Qs:

So far, these visuals seem to be helping my students improve their reversals. The key is to keep practicing writing and recognizing them until they stick for good. It's taken my students 2 years (K and 1st grades) to make these mistakes. It's going to take a while to undo these mistakes. Patience and repetition are the keys.

I also have a trick for B and D that I'll post soon.
Have you found any strategies that work for your students? Please share!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

S'more Paragraph Writing

I LOVE teaching writing to my second graders. It's a process, but by the end of the school year, their growth amazes me! This year I'm teaching my students that a paragraph is like a S'more. The top cracker is the topic sentence, the marshmallow and two layers of chocolate are the supporting details, and the bottom cracker is the closing sentence. I've used many graphic organizers, such as the hamburger. However, I wanted to try something new. For some reason, my students don't get excited over a hamburger paragraph. But a S'more paragraph sounds so much more delicious! To motivate them, I plan to make S'mores with my kids and make the comparisons to a paragraph. I'm hoping this analogy will stick! The poster is a Freebie in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. I also created a set which includes the poster, rubrics, and graphic organizer.
Click here to download the poster, graphic organizer, and rubrics.
Click here for the Freebie poster

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Word About Word Walls

Every year I set up a Word Wall with the best intentions. However, I have always struggled with making it actually usable. I think I finally have it down! So here's what I'm doing to "Make it Work!" (as Tim Gunn says).

  • I use a chalk board or dry erase board so I can easily add & remove words
  • I use colored chalk or markers to color code my words- one color is for high frequency words, another is for enrichment vocabulary words. I bought Bistro board style chalk markers from Hobby Lobby (see pic below). They are perfect!
  • When the wall is full, I'll take a picture of it, print it, and have it available in the room for kids to refer back to during writing.
  • Pictures- I'm going to try adding pictures next to the enrichment vocab words as visual cues.
  • Get your enrichment vocabulary words from read alouds. Thank you Junie B. for the word suspicious!
  • Use SOME of the vocabulary words from your basal story. Be selective!
  • Sparkle Words- Reward students who actually use the enrichment vocabulary words in their writing. A skittle goes as long way!
  • Feature words by putting a magnet, pom-pom, etc. next to a word. If a student uses it, they get props (or a skittle)!
Yellow is for high frequency words and pink is for enrichment vocabulary words.

Hobby Lobby Bistro Chalk Markers
They are bright and beautiful!

Sparkle word & reward students who use it in their writing

Side Note: There's a "I'm Invisible" light button on my board. I turn it on when I'm testing or in small group. For some reason, 7 year olds don't understand "Do not interrupt me." But they understand a light! Thanks to my grade level team mate for sharing this idea!

Bye-Bye Name Tags

One of my pet peeves is when name tags start to curl, peel, and  look like they just came out of the trash can. This all usually happens by October.
Introducing: "Sharpie Paint Pens"!

I got this pack at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon. Don't forget the coupon! Then they only cost $12. Did you know that if you don't have a coupon, you can just bring it up on your smart phone at the register? 

I first saw this fab idea at the blog "Timeouts and Tootsie Rolls". My friend, Madalyn, and I decided to try this out this year. Then Madalyn had the great idea of color coding names so that we could create groups by color. So now we can say, "Purple People" pick up your group's papers.", or "Orange people will work together."


All you need is a Magic Eraser or nail polish remover to wipe off the names when you're ready to switch around seats. I've discovered that nail polish remover works best!

BYE-BYE name tags!

Get Organized with a Teacher Binder

How do you keep all those important papers organized throughout the year? When you go to a meeting, do you have to scour your desk and files for just the right paper work? I hate losing things and not being prepared. So after browsing Pinterest, I found the Teacher Binder idea. A Teacher Binder  is a binder (with divided sections) to keep your most used & important papers. This past school year was the first time I used a Teacher Binder, and let me tell you, I will never do without one! Here's a photo of my heavily used, but sturdy, binder:


Click here to download this freebie

With the new school year quickly approaching, I got the itch to create some new Teacher Binder designs. You can download these for free at my TPT store. There are three different designs- Multi Chevron,  Chevron, and Apple Dots. I've included 12 different divider pages- Teacher Binder, Student information, Student Data, Common Core Standards, Lesson Ideas, Groups, Classroom Management, Meeting Notes, Resources, Parent Communication, Calendars, and a blank page. After you print the dividers, put them in page protectors, and you're all set! I added small tabs to label the sections on the sides. When you walk into your first team meeting with your new Teacher Binder, everyone will be impressed with your organization! I promise. :)

Click here to download this Teacher Binder freebie

First Day of School Activities

Picture this: It's the first day of school and your students are arriving with their parents. The kids are lugging in bags of supplies, you're chatting with parents, and you're trying to get everyone settled and busy. Every year I struggle with the constant flow of parents coming in to meet me and ask questions. So I decided to come up with an activity that would keep students busy, engaged, but  not overwhelmed. I also kept in mind some ELA Common Core training that I recently received. One of my areas to grow is the opportunities I give students for speaking and listening. My plan is to have the following "This is Me!" graphic organizer on students' desks as they arrive. Then students will have the opportunity to share them with the class (hit those Speaking & Listening standards!). I'm also going to give out play-dough for students to create their favorite animal and to tell their groups WHY it's their favorite. Click on the picture & link below to download my "Back to School Activities" pack.

  Click here to download FREEBIE

For the first piece of writing, students may use the graphic organizer to write a paragraph about themselves. I like to collect  a first day writing sample from my students so I can determine where each student is with writing. Plus, who doesn't like writing about his/her self?

The next handout is a short back to school math task. This will help keep those early finishers busy!

Lastly, on the first day, I enjoy reading the book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox. This is a must-read! After the read aloud, I share a Memory Bag with three things that tell about my memories (this is my modeling how to share). We discuss that a memory is something you remember and how memories can be happy, sad, funny, etc. I send home a brown paper bag with each student and staple a note to the front explaining their homework- Collect 3 objects that represent your memories. The following day, students share their Memory Bags. I take this opportunity to explain what makes a good listener (there's a good anchor chart I found on Pinterest about good listeners). This share time will provide another opportunity to hit those Speaking & Listening Common Core standards. Yay!!!

I hope you enjoy this free pack of activities and ideas. They are great way for getting to know your students and building those relationships!

Speaking of memories, here's a picture of one of my Yorkie babies, Elphie. She brings me joy every day!